The Johnstown Flood

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2005
10 hours 0 minutes
The stunning story of one of America’s great disasters, a preventable tragedy of Gilded Age America, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.

At the end of the nineteenth 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, classic portrait of life in nineteenth-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. It also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.
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Scott Eschbach

Overall an excellent account of the history. Sometimes gets a little too far into the weeds with to many examples of of small details.

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Gaynor Celotti

A great piece of history delivered with sensitivity. I enjoyed it.

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Scott Anderson

Fantastic Book - Was able to find out a family member was either part of the story or myth of saving lives that fateful day. Well read and written!

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An excellent book! Great writing and narration. From beginning to end it kept me on the edge of my seat.

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I'm usually a David McCullough fan, but in the case, I thought perhaps he was trying to flood us with words as well as tell the story of the Johnstown flood. I got as far as CD 3 and gave up because of the verbosity.

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I knew nothing about this trajedy and this book gave all the details anyone could need to visualize and get as close as one can to understanding what went horribly wrong. A tragic tale. Well read. McCullough's great!

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Stephen Sink

I enjoyed this story immensely. Before this book I could not have identified even the state the flood occurred in. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the dam's engineering & construction, its flaws, and the reasons it failed. The many accounts of individual survival stories were gripping. A very memorable book. Typical of the McCullough works I've read.

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Michael Herb

Before listening to this I didn't know much about the Johnstown Flood. McCullough's research into all the events surrounding this great tragedy helped me realize how the complexities of American social life played a major role in hundreds of people losing their lives. It was more than just an unfortunate natural disaster. It symbolized differences in class and how attitudes about wealth permeated every aspect of American social life. I really enjoyed this. McCullough never disappoints.

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This was a VERY interesting story, with an excellent narrator. McCullough tells the story slowly, with many details and quotes from the time. I really enjoyed all the personal stories of people who survived the flood, or who were involved in some way. All the details and documentation left me feeling like I REALLY had heard the whole story, with nothing left out! Highly recommended!!

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David Goodrich

A great McCullough with such interesting detail on an event that did not have to happen. It is anazing that people will not heed warning, or else think that it will not happen to me. Great book.

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