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The Johnstown Flood Audiobook

The Johnstown Flood

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Publisher's Summary

At the end of the last century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nation's burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was done about the dam. Then came May 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 people. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal.

Graced by David McCullough's remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing portrait of life in 19th-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. This is a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are behaving responsibly.

©1968 David McCullough; (P)2005 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (2510 )
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  •  
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 07-22-08
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 07-22-08 Member Since 2014

    Curtis

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    "You Can Really Picture It All"

    This writing and narration really put you in the middle of the flood. So descriptive and gut-wrenching! Also, you will learn quite a bit about the class struggles, banking magnates, and feel of the times.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    David West Newton, MA, USA 09-15-06
    David West Newton, MA, USA 09-15-06 Member Since 2004
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    "Another Good Listen"

    David McCullough has done it, yet again. A great story of this significnat tragedy told in a compelling manner. Hermann does his usual good job in keeping the story moving along. I was interested particularly with the post-flood stories and also of the many myths that came from the flood in later years.
    Highly recommend

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Philadelphia, PA, USA 08-11-05
    Joshua Philadelphia, PA, USA 08-11-05
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    "McCullough / Herrmann a great combo"

    The author has, once again, delivered the goods. A great historical tale about a (generationally) liitle known topic. I had always known about the flood, but never the details. McCullough is able to deliver a terrific work that is hard to put down. Edward Herrmann, better known in some of his acting roles as FDR or the Chrysler guy--uses his unusual and instantly recognizeable voice to deliver a book that you feel is being read like a good story with important parables. His other reads are equally wonderful by the way.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 10-26-11
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 10-26-11 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

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    "Human Tragedy"
    Any additional comments?

    I had not read much about the cause of the flood or what made it such a epic tragedy, so I learned a lot from this book. I was impressed by the incredible courage of many of the townspeople attempting to save themselves, their families and their neighbors, but also saddened and appalled at the callousness of some of the club members whose arrogance contributed to the immensity of the damage and loss of life. A real eye opener into those times. Very well read as always by Edward Herrmann.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-01-16
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 11-01-16

    I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^

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    "The 'horrible tempest,' with flood and fire..."

    "It had been the 'horrible tempest,' with flood and fire 'come as a destruction from the Almighty.' It had been awful, but it had been God awful."
    ― David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood

    I was wrapping a couple of my first edition, eBay book purchases with mylar and discovered my first edition 'The Johnstown Flood' had a bit of water damage to the spine. I took this as a positive portent (ex dīrīs diluvium?) it was time to read it. One couldn't find a better divination that it is time to read a book unless one stumbles upon a pressed butterfly in a Nabokov or dirty photo in a Henry Miller at the Library (which reminds me I need to start carrying butterflies and McGill postcards into public libraries regularly).

    I'm not sure what if there is a specific word for the disaster history genre, but I've recently read The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, and now I've just finished a flood history, I've read about volcanoes (Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded) and earthquakes (A Crack in the Edge of the World), so now I just need plagues and pestilence histories and I'll be able to fill my disaster dance card (programme du décès?).

    This is McCullough's first book, published in 1968. He was an early master of strong narrative histories. Having been trained at Yale in English and almost fumbled by grace, accident, talent or opportunity into historical writing. Once he started publishing, Mccullough has almost never been a disappointment to his publishers. He now reigns as one of the supreme masters of American popular biography, along with Walter Isaacson, Jon Meacham, Joseph Ellis and Doris Kearns Goodwin. These are the Costco historian set. They aren't always the 'best' or most rigorous historians, but there is a certain skill in being able to carry a story to the historically, unwashed masses. There are certainly better academic historians (Burlingame, etc), but McCullough's skill at telling a story and bringing his story-telling flair to the 1889 Johnstown Flood, makes the history of this very American disaster not just a moving story, but a very good social history.

    13 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rhonda walker 09-14-16
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    "One of the best all around books I've listened to"
    If you could sum up The Johnstown Flood in three words, what would they be?

    Devastating, Tragic, Inspiring


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I didn't have a favorite character


    What about Edward Herrmann’s performance did you like?

    Edward Herrmann was excellent! His voice and the way he read was perfect for this book. He was easy to listen to and read in a way that made me feel like I was watching rather than listening.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    There were several parts of this book that made me feel very sad.


    Any additional comments?

    I read some of the other reviews before purchasing this book. I have to agree with the other reviews; this was one of the best books I have ever listened to. I have been to Johnstown Pennsylvania several times and I've heard a few things about the flood, but I had no idea how completely devastating it actually was. The detail in this book, along with Mr. Hermanns narration, make this a "must listen to" book for anyone who has any interest in the Johnstown Flood.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ohad SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, United States 06-16-15
    Ohad SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, United States 06-16-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent story read very well"

    I knew nothing about Johnstown. I even had to look on Google Maps to see where it is. Now, I feel cheated that this was never covered in any history class I ever took. What a monumental event! McCullough makes the story very interesting and the reader is superb. I just finished "The Wright Brothers", which McCullough reads himself, but this reader is even better. If you have never heard f this event or know little about it, this is a must read for any fan of history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arlene Johns 06-14-15
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    "Must-read for history buffs"

    He sure knows how to weave history with interesting personal stories, I grew up in the valley and thought I knew all about the flood, but I learned so much through this book!6

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 04-27-15
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 04-27-15 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

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    "An Emotional Drought"

    After reading some of the reviews and the summary I thought I was in for a personal glimpse into human tragedy, courage, triumph, etc. in the face of a natural disaster. There was so much potential for this book to really transport the reader into the lives of those who perished or survived the deadly water that overtook Johnstown on that fateful day; but that isn't the case. The book is rich with facts and interesting information about the event and days leading up to it, but the accounts of the survivors are delivered in a documentary fashion and it stops short of offering any human connection - no story within a story here - just straightforward and thorough testimony as remembered by various people. Not horrible - it's way better than anything you would find in a text book; but it was a bit dry.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick UrcuquĂ­, Ecuador 04-17-15
    Rick UrcuquĂ­, Ecuador 04-17-15 Member Since 2013

    In a peaceful, verdant valley on the Equator, the sun always sets at 6, and a good audiobook is always the perfect evening companion

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    "Portrait of a tragedy"

    The prolific and uncommonly accessible historian David McCullough chose the great Johnstown Flood of 1889 as the subject for this book, his first, in 1968. The traits that would define his works are evident here: engaging writing, historical credibility, and deep and detailed research that yields such personal and personable accounts of places and characters, you’d swear McCullough must have been present himself. (It’s also just slightly dated. In 1968 we were still saying “all men” instead of “all people,” but that’s history for you.)

    The chronology unfolds against a portrait of Johnstown as a working class, company town, populated by hardworking people with big families. It was a steel town—a major center for the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Cambria Iron Works. Fourteen miles upstream on the Little Conemaugh River and 450 feet higher than the town, the reservoir known as Lake Conemaugh held 20 million tons of water behind an aging earthen dam. What was built as a reservoir to feed a defunct canal system had become the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a private retreat for Pittsburgh industrialists and their families.

    A convergence of factors—a river narrowed by development, unwise changes to the dam, and an unprecedented series of rainstorms—combined to produce the horror of May 31. Water burst from the swollen lake and roared downstream, preceded by a wall of debris taller than the 78-foot stone railroad bridge it first crushed. The flood wiped smaller villages off the earth on its way to Johnstown, where it arrived in less than an hour. The destruction was nightmarish, and then became unimaginably worse when a mountain of wreckage, bound together by the remains of a barbed wire factory, piled against the town’s Stone Bridge and burst into flames. The official death toll was 2,209.

    It would have been easy to portray this tragedy simply as the negligence of evil, uncaring tycoons whose poor management of their private lake unleashed it on a doomed populace. And that would be fairly accurate. But McCullough explores the many subtleties instead, getting around to culpability with scarcely an hour to go. While neither the exclusive club nor any of its gold-plated members was ever held accountable, the case did lead to the standard of "strict liability" that was adopted by American law in the next century.

    Narrator Edward Herrmann delivers a seemingly effortless, expressive performance that is warm and easy to listen to.

    Technical note: Many very long silences, some between chapters and some not, make me think several times that the player had stopped working.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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