Johnstown Flood

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  • Topic: Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Johnstown Flood, Cambria County, Pennsylvania
  • Pages : 3 (1193 words )
  • Download(s) : 600
  • Published : April 6, 2005
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McCullough presents a meticulously researched, detailed account of the Johnstown Flood of May 31st 1889, which provides arguments for why the disaster was both "the work of man" and "a visitation of providence". However, it is apparent that McCullough believes that man was more responsible than nature/god for the extent of the catastrophe. In McCullough's opinion, the storm that caused the flood was no more than the inevitable stimulus of the disaster, whereas the deferred maintenance and poor repairs on the dam were the primary reason that Johnstown was devastated in 1889. McCullough exposes the failed duties of Benjamin Ruff and other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, whilst simultaneously questioning the responsibility of the Johnstown folk who were concerned about the safety of the dam but complacently trusted the wealthy, powerful club members to fulfil their responsibilities. McCullough clearly explains the debate that took place immediately after the flood, on what or whom was to blame for the disaster, by explaining the views of the press, the townspeople and the lawsuits that were filed. McCullough's view is evident from the sub-title of his book. By placing the word "natural" within quotation marks, McCullough immediately suggests that the flood was unusual to any other, and implies that mankind has displaced its blame onto nature. McCullough explains how Johnstown became an example of ‘The Gilded Age' industrialization prior to the 1889 disaster. The canal made Johnstown the busiest place in Cambria County in the 1820s. By the 1850s the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Cambria Iron Company began, and the population increased. There were about 30,000 people in the area before the flood. The Western Reservoir was built in the 1840s, but became generally known as the South Fork dam. It was designed to supply extra water for the Main Line canal from Johnstown to Pittsburgh. By saving the spring floods, water could be released...
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