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The National Park Service has blackballed my book, in favor of protecting the theory that an abnormal rain storm was the lone cause of the flood. They hold up David McCullough's book as the most accurate portrayal of the 1889 Johnstown flood, even though his telling of the story begins on the day before and provides no context of the events leading up to the flood.


They have also denied University of Pittsburgh research that proves the dam was built with both primary and secondary spillways (available at

In support of these statements, I present here my correspondence with the National Park Service.

National Park Service letter detailing their justification for blackballing my book:

Some examples of issues I have with 'The
Johnstown Flood' by David McCullough
                        Here is a one page timeline of relevant events:



 Andrew Carnegie born Nov, 1835. He was 17 yrs old in 1853 when hired by Tom Scott at the P.R.R. Western Division (which had just been  completed). In 1859 he was promoted to Superintendent of the P.R.R. (Altoona - Pittsburgh) which included the South Fork dam (Western  Reservoir)

 Time line between 1860 and 1890:

 1861-civil war-1865

   1862-Andrew Carnegie starts Piper & Shiffler Bridge Co. (it becomes Keystone Bridge); Dam is drained (after break?); Iron pipes available for the taking (81.47                  tons, enough for two iron railroad bridges; Did Carnegie take iron from dam during the period he was in charge of the Western Division of PRR, c. 1859-                1865?)

      1864-Carnegie starts Cyclops Mill to supply parts to his bridge co., partners are Tom Miller, and Piper & Shiffler, then merged it with Kloman & Phipps Mill 

             & Tom Carnegie to form The (Union Mill) very busy period but makes NO iron of his own.

         1865-Andrew Carnegie leaves PRR; John Reilly promoted to supervisor; Robert Pitcairn given Carnegie’s position as supervisor of Western Division of PRR

            1867 – Carnegie moves to N.Y. City

               1868-Carnegie’s Keystone Bridge Co. starts Eads Bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis

                  1869 – Cambria starts construction of 2x6 ton, 6th Bessemer in country, changes name to Cambria Steel Co.

                     1871 – Carnegie starts to build “Lucy” blast furnace

                        1872, Summer - “Lucy Furnace” makes first blow (first time Carnegie made his own iron)

                           1873 – Capt. Jones leaves Cambria with 200 men for Edgar Thomson Works

                            1874 – Cambria Iron Company still largest in country if not the world

                                 1875 -John Reilly leaves employment of PRR and serves in congress; John Reilly buys South Fork Dam for $2,500; Edgar Thompson                                                       Works makes 1st blow with 2x7 ton Bessemer converters in August     

                                     1877 - Reilly loses reelection bid, is rehired by PRR as Supervisor                                                                                                                                             1879 - Reilly sells dam for $2,000 to Ruff representing South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club (SFF&HC); Reilly is paid $500 for (missing?)                                                     pipes; SFF&HC starts repairs to dam before receiving charter, which was approved on Nov 11                                                                               1881 - Reconstruction of dam completed with breast lowered and fish screen fabricated and installed in the primary spillway.                                                         1889, May 31 - dam fails, Johnstown Flood (Carnegie’s Edgar Thompson Works is now the largest steel company in country)                                                                                            

 In 1891 an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report Titled “Francis et. al., 1891” cleared SFF&HC of wrongdoing, attributing the flood to an abnormal rain  storm. That study claimed that the dam had only a single spillway which they concluded was inadequate to control the volume of incoming water from the storm,  but they based those conclusions on the dam's condition after the modifications which were made by SFF&HC. I have searched, but have been unable to find any  information proving who paid for that report?  Furthermore, the University of Pittsburgh study completed in October 2016, linked at the top of this page,  contradicts the 1891 report with the following conclusion:

"The ASCE review of the South Fork dam (Francis et al., 1891) and supporting calculations appear to us to have been biased in favor of the dam owners, thereby helping to shield the SFFHC, in a historic engineering sense, from subsequent liability claims or even the perception of liability in the wake of the disaster. We believe an injustice was thereby done to the more than 2200 people who lost their lives and to the survivors."

 Even in the face of this new study, which was completed with more accurate modern engineering and measurement techniques, the  National Park Service continues to support the claim that the dam was improperly designed with an inadequate, single spillway!

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