“The Johnstown calamity”

"The Johnstown calamity. A slightly damaged house." Photo by George Barker, 1889. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I ran across this photograph from the Library of Congress newsletter and thought I’d share it with you. I’ve seen plenty of devastation photographs, but this one is unique. I’ve never seen anything like it.

When I looked up the tragedy on the Internet, I was surprised to learn that the Johnstown, Pennsylvania calamity was caused by a flood, rather than from a tornado, as I had previously thought.

A dam holding back an eight by three mile wide mountain lake broke and almost completely wiped out a city of 25,000 residents. For a summary and a New York Times account of the disaster, go to an account of the Johnstown calamity.

If you look closely, that looks to be a Pennsylvania Rail Road car underneath the house. You’ll note the initials “P.R.R.”. Apparently, Johnstown was an important hub for the railway, according to the article, “How Johnstown Made Its Living, Part 2”.

The town did rebuild, by the way, and celebrated the calamity’s 100th anniversary in 1989, according to the “calamity” article.

A note regarding the photograph: The original was very dull and without much contrast, so I lightened it up some and added some contrast to make it more appealing, at least as appealing as a disaster photograph can be.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MargeKatherine
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 11:56:20

    I’ve heard about this flood before. Don’t you love learning about history and then seeing photos that makes it all come alive again?!


    • Cris
      Mar 15, 2012 @ 22:27:37

      Yes, it’s kind of fun, but sad, too, because so much of recorded history is about sad things. It even inspired me to look around a little bit more, too.

      I had never heard of the flood before so it was kind of an eye-opener, to be sure.


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