Top positive review
A good accurate story about a little known major disaster.
Reviewed in the United States on March 1, 2017
I had heard about this incident while doing some research in high school about the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad. I never fully understood it until I read David McCullough's book on it that the whole horror that swept out on that Memorial weekend. The story always told in most of the history books I had read was of evil rail and steel barons would could have cared less about the safety of folks built a dam and then in a terrible storm it broke and destroyed everything downstream for miles and killing many. This book, the first of McCullough's history books about major events in USA history, completely threw that theory out on the ear. From the state that built the damn to support a canal project and then failed to maintain it, to the initial damage that happened to the damn in a storm during the Civil War and finally on over to the Pittsburgh barons who wanted a summer house away from Lake Erie and only a short train ride from Pittsburgh and their changes to the dam and failure to hire the right engineers to understand how to maintain the damn, let alone upgrade it to support the changes that came along. This wasn't the only cause, McCullough also show that the area around Johnstown was a boom-town and they stripped the region of trees, built into rivers and closed off other streams while build in mines for coal and other metals for the steel industry was harvested. The big storm hits and then there is the dithering by the land owners of the resort that was built up by the dam, the dam breaking and the disbelief that it broke and then the untold gallons of water that goes washing down the valley. The most interesting part of the story was the recovery and that this the first major disaster prior to the '06 San Fransisco quake. From the first major disaster relief by the American Red Cross and Clara Barton outside of a war, on over to the number of folks who just showed up to work and help in clearance of debris or recovery of the bodies. The chapter dedicated to the yellow journalism is most interesting considering that these journalists, their editors back home in places like NYC or Pittsburgh wrote hate filled diatribes about them stinking "foreigners" who might be robbing, raping, pillaging and otherwise evil. The epilogue is also interesting bit of the book since the usual drama bit for superheroes of a dam burst is based on the stories from Johnstown. Then there is some lessons learned in the recovery of Johnstown that was later employed by the Red Cross and others in San Francisco. This is worthy while to learn about one of the first major natural disasters in the US and David McCullough's style makes it very readable.