Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Great Flood, and since...
Several months before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, we
had started collecting
historical material for a CD-ROM on the Johnstown Flood of 1889. It was clear to us
that the Johnstown Flood was an incident
of local history that had a national impact -- and that a Johnstown Flood CD-ROM belonged in our local
We have recently
heard from customers who wanted the material on this CD
but whose new computers do not have CD/DVD drives.
To accommodate them, and to begin to address
technological progress as more personal computers are
built without CD/DVD drives, we are beginning to offer material from this CD in download form. Please
select whichever mode works best for you!
Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, commentators have pointed out that there have been disasters
in American history to which they beg comparison. We
found columnist David Brooks' New York Times Op Ed piece on September 1,
2005, entitled "The Storm After the Storm" particularly provocative -- including
his allusions to the Johnstown Flood and its aftermath.
The aftermath of the great Johnstown Flood, by the way, included the Progressive movement in the United
States, which Brooks notes was crystallized by the Johnstown Flood.
There are other similarities worth noting. Just as
they did in New Orleans, the
poor in Johnstown lived next to the water. And, "the" Johnstown flood was
really only the biggest of many Johnstown floods, which both preceded and
followed the big one. The 1889 flood was remarkable really because a dam
upstream burst and made the usual flooding into a catastrophe of proportions
that are still considered epic. The people of Johnstown, like the people
of New Orleans, had for decades feared that a man-made device to hold back the
waters would ultimately fail and that catastrophe would be the result. In
both cases the fears of the hapless residents were justified.
Ultimately, whether you're interested in Johnstown because you had family who
lived there, because you're a current resident of the area, because you have an
interest in Pennsylvania history, because you are interested in how our nation
historically has reacted to disasters, because you are interested in the history
of the development of the iron and steel industry in America (the Cambria Iron
and Steel Company was important in this respect), or for some other reason, we hope that
this CD-ROM about Johnstown, PA will be of interest to you.
Here's a summary what the CD includes. We've tried to
capture a bit of Johnstown's more recent history as well as accounts of "the"
Johnstown flood and its short-term aftermath because we feel that there is nothing quite
like 116 years of historical perspective to help understand what is still viewed
as one of the singular disasters of United States history, its context and its
(Click on any of the images below to see a full-sized version)
Some news photos of the Johnstown flood of 1936 that in some small measure recalled the great
flood of 1889 -- minus the dam burst upstream. We were fortunate to find what appears to be an
incomplete set from an unknown newspaper or broadside of one or a series of
feature stories about
that later flood. One does not see pictures of
this particular Johnstown flood often.
Postcards from our collection
of Johnstown views. Johnstown
has several distinctions -- including its inclined railway, its huge cemetery
of unknown dead from "the" flood, and the Cambria Iron/Steel Works -- one of
the earlier large-scale iron smelting operations in the United States.
(We should also mention the Johnstown Jets -- that Eastern Professional
Hockey League team that vied with such groups as the Long Island Ducks and
the Clinton Comets -- sadly, we do not have any mementos of that group on
this CD. But we did enjoy watching the mayhem years ago when we were
at Hamilton College, in Clinton, NY.) With considerable national public interest in the city of Johnstown, there are
many postcards out there. We've actually stopped collecting them because
too many would be required to constitute a comprehensive collection!
Nonetheless, on the CD are some that we do have, as well as some donated
History of the Great Flood in Johnstown, PA, May 31, 1889 by which Ten
Thousand Lives Were Lost, by J. S. Ogilvie (1889). 224 pages. This
is not our favorite Johnstown flood book. Three notable more or less contemporary books about the Johnstown
flood were rushed into print soon after the disaster, of which two appear on this CD-ROM.
This one is a fast read -- and really quite captivating -- and contains all the errors, misstatements, prejudices,
melodrama, and hype that characterized accounts of the flood at the time.
(NOTE: this item is also offered separately as a download. 224
pages, just as it appears on the CD-ROM, in PDF format, download now for
Commencement program for the Class of 1950 of Johnstown High School.
This is an interesting study in surnames, even if you know no one who
graduated that year. The iron industry was a microcosm of the American
melting pot, and it still echoed in the names of the 1950 Johnstown High
School graduates. (NOTE: this item will be offered separately as a
Promotion Exercises of Cochran Junior High School, Johnstown, PA, 1929.
Oddly, the surnames in this graduation program 21 years earlier does not
reflect the ethnic diversity that the 1950 program does. One can only
speculate why this would be the case. (NOTE: this item will be
offered separately as a download).
History of the Johnstown Flood by Willis Fletcher Johnson (1889).
459 pages. This book is our favorite of the two contemporaneous "flood
books" on this CD-ROM. First off, it
contains a number of photographs of Johnstown after the flood. It is
considerably more comprehensive in its reporting on the recovery efforts -- and,
interestingly, it identifies many of the donors to the relief effort.
We were surprised to see the extent to which the Wall Street community opened
their wallets in support of this working class disaster. (NOTE:
this item will be offered separately as a download).
"High Fever Follies II" program of the 1958 benefit production of the
Junior Auxiliary of Memorial Hospital, Johnstown. 52 pages. If you
enjoy social history, this program provides a vignette of the social life of
an upper or upper-middle class woman in a small industrial city in 1950s
America. If your roots are in Johnstown, there will be many reminders
here of "the old days". The ads alone -- many of which feature Junior
Auxiliary members (and in some cases family members) as models in the photos
-- are quite remarkable. There are also two pages of photos of
the children and, we suppose, the grandchildren, of the members.
(NOTE: this item will be offered separately as a download).
How can I obtain the Johnstown CD-ROM?
It's available now for $15.00!
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Or, return to
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