book reviews Neil Coleman. Johnstown’s Flood of 1889: Power Over Truth and the Science Behind the Disaster. New York: Springer, 2018. Pp. 256. Hardcover, $28.95. The year 2018 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of David McCullough’s page-turning The Johnstown Flood, still the most authoritative account of Johnstown’s disaster. It is fitting that Neil Coleman would publish a new book in 2018 that uses quantitative science to allow readers to better assess who was responsible for the May 31, 1889, disaster and to clear up some critical ambiguities. It is a major update to the story. The flood was caused by the breaking of a dam owned by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a group of Pittsburgh industrialists, financi- ers, and business men. In a horrifying display of the power of nature, some 2,200 residents perished. The flood resulted in the biggest news story of the period and a national scandal. While the press was quick to harshly criticize the club members and the shoddy South Fork Dam, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) launched an investigation by three of the most qualified hydraulic engineers in the county on the cause of the dam failure.
Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Apr 11, 2019
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