McCullough, David. The Johnstown Flood. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc. , 2007 About the Author: David McCullough, author of numerous books including The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, John Adams, 1776 and Truman, was a twice recipient of the National Book Award and two times winner of the Pulitzer Award. He has been known as the “master of the arts of narrative history”. His books received merits for their exceptional style, literary distinction and insight to the life of the Americans. One of his books entitled John Adams hit the best seller’s list of the New York Times, which
occupied the number one spot and remained on the list for more than one year, proving the quality of his work. At this point, more than two million copies of his book (John Adams) have been sold. Many people admire his style of writing. As may be regarded of few writers, none of McCullough’s books has even been out of print. Author’s Thesis and Main Points: The story of Johnstown Flood depicts the truth on the impending dangers confronting mankind when manipulating their nature, but lacks the knowledge and forethoughts to minimize risks. The happening of Johnstown Flood could have been avoided .
As you may recall, the South Fork Dam was built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a reservoir for the canal basin in Johnstown. Later, it was sold to the Pennsylvanian Railroad and sold again to others with private interest. The abandoned reservoir of water was purchased, modified and converted into a private resort for the few, wealthy people of Pittsburg, many of them were associated with the Carnegie Steel. Among the changes made were the lowering of the dam to widen the top portion in order to hold a road, creating a fish screen in the spillway that trapped debris and lowering of the lake’s level.
All the alterations done with the South Fork Dam contributed to the dam’s vulnerability. Aside from this, South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club was built as a secretive mountain retreat. There was a speculation on the integrity of the dam since it frequently had leaks and was patched with mud and straw. The members of the club was accused of failure to maintain the dam properly, thus, it was unable to contain an additional water of heavy rainfall. As described by David McCullough, broken branches and young leaves whipped through the air, and at the immense frame clubhouse
that stood at the water’s edge, half-way among the cottages, blue wood smoke trailed from great brick chimneys and vanished in fast whirls, almost as though the whole building, like a splendid yellow ark were under steam, heading into the wind. (McCullough 19) Critique: The Johnstown Flood is a remarkable and well written books signifying the importance of nature and the dangers it imposes on mankind once it has been neglected. It is an eye opener on man’s accountability toward his environment showing responsibility in our decisions and actions that affect nature and mankind. That, we do not just live for ourselves, but
we also have a concern for the aftermath of what we are doing. The building of Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, the arrival of the Pennsylvania railroad were all intended for the town’s development, including the South Fork Dam which was designed as part of the canal system that will hold huge amount of water as a reservoir for Johnstown. However, because of the private interest of the few people, the nature was manipulated and modified to serve the purpose of few, rich people. It was horribly neglected without thinking of what it might create, a disaster that could have been avoided.
The book reflected the essence of nature, that it should not be manipulated without thinking of its risks. Man should be accountable for all his actions that would affect his environment and other people. There are many horrible events in the past that happened which left a remarkable message, teaching mankind to take care of his environment, however, time and time again, these disasters is repeatedly occurring due to many factors including negligence, lack of knowledge and lack of concern for the welfare of others. There are numerous people who only serve their purpose and interests, but have a little concern for others.
The Johnstown Flood which occurred on May 31, 1889 was preventable if only the nature was not neglected. We cannot do anything to control natural instance. After the book of the Johnstown Flood was launched, it paved the way to David McCullough’s distinguishing career as a writer, biographer, teacher and historian as well. McCullough also wrote other books which became popular. One of which is Truman, which received a Francis Parkman prize, Los Angeles Times Book Reward and the National Book Awards. Johanna Liza B. Catalan Work Cited McCullough, David. The Johnstown Flood. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc. , 2007