Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Report! 21 Books and Films on the Great Easter 1913 Flood and Tornadoes

Sixteen recent books—eight issued for the centennial—range from illustrated local histories to resource guides to children’s literature; plus two 1-hour documentary films and three notable earlier works.

Nothing beats a riveting disaster book or movie! The 2013 centennial has inspired a crop of new histories about aspects of the 1913 flood in Ohio and Indiana plus about the family of Easter tornadoes in Nebraska. Below, in alphabetical order by author’s last name, are 16 books and two hour-long documentaries—both of which can be viewed in full online—published since 2000. Fully half the books and films are brand new (in the last four months). Many are local histories that are filling in details of ‘Our National Calamity’ that otherwise would be lost to posterity.

Each entry below gives full bibliographical information. In the case of books not widely available in retail outlets, ordering information is also included (if available). As the works range from scholarly to fictionalized popular accounts to children’s introductions, the brief descriptions are intended to provide succinct information about each work’s intention, scope, audience, and approach. With just a couple of exceptions (as noted below), I was able to obtain review copies or (if not yet in print) advance PDFs.

Listed in a separate group are three notable earlier books from the last half of the twentieth century, now available online, in second-hand bookstores, or in libraries. Only those works whose entire content is devoted to the 1913 natural disaster are reviewed; autobiographies, city histories, or other works that include only a chapter or subsection about it are excluded, as are short videos (some of which can be found on YouTube). (Also excluded are the various instant disaster books published in 1913, already discussed in detail in “Profiting From Pain.”

As always, contact me at t.e.bell@ieee.org if I have overlooked a resource or if you know of one appearing later this centennial year. Happy reading and viewing! 

Books since 2000

Bambakidis, Elli and Harriet Foley (editors). 1913—The 1913 Flood in Franklin, Ohio: A Guide. Franklin Area Historical Society, P. O. Box 345, Franklin, OH 45005-0345. 2013. [Title on title page reads 1913 Flood of the Great Miami River: A Guide to Resources on the Flood of 1913 Available at the Franklin Area Historical Society.] No ISBN. xiv. 129 pages. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Softbound or hardbound. Principally a detailed guide to the FAHS collection of some 8,000 items, this book is richly illustrated with photographic images and captions on uncoated paper, pre-flood history of the Franklin area, and a historical sketch that puts the Franklin-area flood in statewide context. Copies are available from FAHS and the Franklin-Springboro Public Library, or via mail order. Price of $20.00 (softbound) or $35.00 (hardbound) includes Ohio sales tax; mail orders should also include $4.00 for shipping and handling. Payment is by cash or checks payable to the Franklin Area Historical Society (FAHS); telephone (FAHS Museum is voicemail only) is (937) 746-8295.

Bambakidis, Elli (editor). 1913: Preserving the Memories of Dayton’s Great Flood. Proceedings of the Symposium [October 22, 2002] sponsored by Dayton Metro Library, Ohio Humanities Council, Miami Conservancy District, Ohio Preservation Council and Beavercreek Women’s League. With a Guide to Resources on the Flood of 1913. Dayton Metro Library, 215 East Third Street, Dayton, OH 45402-2103. 2004. ISBN 0-9707679-1-9. xv. 128 pages. Appendices. Bibliographies (one for print materials, one for websites). Index. Softbound. Richly illustrated with more than 125 photographs on coated paper, this book includes the full text of five major papers presented at the symposium (especially thought-provoking is the lead essay “Where History Comes From: The Dayton Flood and Why We Remember,” by Una M. Cadegan, University of Dayton). Despite being only nine years old, the book may be available primarily in libraries; call Dayton Metro for more information.

Bell, Trudy E. The Great Dayton Flood of 1913. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5179-1. 2008. 128 pages. Bibliography. Softbound. Part of Arcadia’s Images of America series, this picture book features nearly 200 images from the Dayton Metro Library, the Miami Conservancy District, and the NCR Archives at Dayton History, on coated paper with extended captions telling the story of the flood in Dayton, rescue efforts, recovery, and the construction of the Miami Conservancy District dry dams for flood control. As per Arcadia’s usual pattern for its local histories, the book is widely available in the Dayton area at bookstores, museums, and even local Walgreens, but not necessarily in more distant bookstores. Copies also can be ordered through Arcadia or directly from the author for the cover price of $21.99 each (including Ohio sales tax) plus an additional $4.00 shipping and handling. 

Blount, Jim. Flood: Butler County’s Greatest Weather Disaster—March 1913. Past/Present Press, Hamilton! Ohio. 2002. No ISBN. 68 pages. Saddlestitched. More than 70 photos and maps on uncoated paper of the 1913 flood of the Great Miami River in the Hamilton and Middletown areas of Ohio was compiled by Hamilton’s historian and retired newspaper journalist. Hamilton, about a third the size of Dayton in 1913 (about 35,000 citizens compared to about 125,000) suffered far more deaths for the size of its population than did Dayton; although body counts were less than 100, official estimates acknowledge the real casualties likely topped 150, and Blount’s research suggested it may have topped 200. Chapters written and laid out like newspaper articles. No bibliography or index, but detailed table of contents. Available for $12.50 from Books in Shandon, 4795 Cincinnati-Brookville Road,  P.O. Box 8, Shandon, OH 45063, phone 513-738-2962 or 513-523-4005; contact binshandon@fuse.net for information on shipping.

Conrad, Thelma (compiler and editor). Rain and River: Remembering the Flood of 1913, Logansport, Indiana. Cass County Historical Society, 1004 East Market Street, Logansport, IN 46947. 2013. ii. 88 pages. Hardbound. Rich photographic record of the overflowing of the Wabash River and flooding of Logansport, Indiana, as documented principally by professional photographers from four photographic studios in the city. The book, compiled and edited by the CCHS’s Executive Director, features more than 160 images—the best of the CCHS’s collection of postcards and photographs—printed on coated paper with extended captions. Also included are notes and observations of observers trapped in buildings, quotes from newspapers, and excerpts of letters. No bibliography or index. Sold at the Cass County Historical Society; for ordering the book by mail ($25 per copy plus $5 for shipping and handling), contact the author at the society at 574-753-3866 or e mail cchistoricalsoc@frontier.com

Gignilliat, Lt. Col. Leigh R., Capt. Robert Rossow, and Cdt. Elliott White Springs. Logansport—The Flood, March 1913. Assembled and edited by Robert B. D. Hartman.  Culver Academies. 1994. 57 pages. The Second Century Series. Have not seen a copy; my contact at the Culver Academies wrote: “This book was self-published by the school in 1994 (in celebration of Culver's centennial)… The book is, with the exception of our historian, Bob Hartman's introduction, three first-hand accounts of the dramatic rescue of more than 1,000 citizens of Logansport, Indiana, by a group of cadets and faculty of the Culver Military Academy (as it was then called). The story is recounted by then-superintendent Col. L.R. Gignilliat, by Black Horse Troop director (and war veteran, yarn-spinner and adventurer) Col. Robert Rossow, and by cadet Elliot White Springs, who went on to fame and fortune as a WWI veteran and textile magnate, in addition to a brief excerpt from a letter by a Logansport woman. It has a handful of photos.” It is in the process of being reprinted. $13.95. Available at the Culver Military Academy campus bookstore or can be ordered online.

Dalton, Curt, Through Flood, Through Fire: Personal Stories from Survivors of the Dayton Flood of 1913. Oregon Printing. Dayton, OH. 2012. 182 pages. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Full verbatim contents of letters, speeches, other 1913 documents during and after the 1913 flood, prefaced by introductory narrative, plus over 100 stunning photographs from the NCR Archives of Dayton History, the Dayton Daily News, and other sources. Reprint of a book originally published in 2001. Although the entire text is online, the photographs make it eminently worth acquiring a physical printed copy. $24.95; available from Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd, Dayton, OH 45409; call 937-293-2841 and ask for the gift shop for information about shipping.

Dalton, Curt. Water, Water Everywhere… The History of the Miami Valley Flood of 1913. Children’s Historical Publishing, 2626 Delanie Avenue, Dayton OH 45419, (937)-643-0502. 2013. 32 pages. No ISBN.  Saddlestitched. Laid out rather like an Arcadia book, it is written at a level accessible to grade-school children without talking down to them. Through the dramatic photographs, reading, and a few activities, children can learn social studies history and a little engineering. Sold at Dayton Art Institute and Carillon Park. For ordering (retail $8.00 each plus $3.35 shipping, although special discounts are available for teachers and classrooms), contact the publisher at chps@woh.rr.com .

Miami Conservancy District, The. A Flood of Memories. One Hundred Years After the Flood: Images from 1913 and Today. The Miami Conservancy District. 2013. ISBN 978-0-615-75860-2. 128 pages. Hardbound. Colorful coffee-table book depicts the dramatic 1913 flood side-by-side with images of the same areas today captured by photographer Andy Snow. Piqua, Troy, Dayton, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown, and Hamilton are all included. Each pair of images has brief descriptive text, but the bulk of every page is reserved for the striking contrasts between devastation in 1913 and the safety and vibrancy these communities enjoy now. $22.95 from the Dayton Art Institute Museum Store, Carillon Historical Park’s Gift Shop, and the Butler County Historical Society. Not yet available for online ordering, although it may be soon.

O’Gorman, John W. Impact of the Great 1913 Flood on Miamisburg, Ohio. Miamisburg Historical Society. 2012. (vi) 106 pages. 40 photographs. Bibliography. The author writes: “As the title indicates, it deals with Miamisburg, as I found that the Miamisburg story was overlooked in the general  reporting of the day.” $15.00 including tax, plus postage and handling (call for information). Make checks out to Miamisburg Historical Society and send to MHS at 4 North Main Street, Miamisburg, OH 45342, Phone: (937) 859-5000, e-mail: MHSociety@att.net

Sing, Travis. Omaha’s Easter Tornado of 1913.  Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-3184-7. 2003. 128 pages. Bibliography. Softbound. Part of Arcadia’s Images of America series, this picture book features some 200 images from various historical archives in Omaha, Nebraska, on coated paper. (Sing’s technique of telling the gripping story of the Great Easter Omaha Tornado and its destruction in various communities through extended captions, including rescue efforts, relief, and recovery, inspired my own approach for my book on the 1913 flood in Dayton.) As per Arcadia’s usual pattern for its local histories, Sing’s book is widely available in the Omaha area at bookstores, museums, and historical societies, but not necessarily in more distant bookstores. Copies also can be ordered ($21.99 cover price) through Arcadia

Swickard, Lisa. Calamity and Courage: Tiffin’s Battle During Ohio’s Deadly 1913 Flood. [UPDATE/CORRECTION TO PREVIOUSLY POSTED INFORMATION:] Virgin Alley Press, 2010. 290 pages. Softcover. 248 photographs - see this YouTube video about the book. $35.00 - order directly from Virgin Alley Press, 40 West Market Street #2, Tiffin, OH 44883.

Trostel, Scott D. And Through the Black Night of Terror: The 1913 Flood in the Northern Miami Valley. Cam-Tech Publishing, 4890 East Miami-Shelby Road, Fletcher, OH 45326-9766. ISBN 978-0-925436-69-6. 2012. 188 pages. Bibliography. Index. Softcover. Recounts the 1913 flood in the five northern Miami Valley counties of Champaign, Darke, Logan, Miami, and Shelby, where 65 people perished in the angry waters, including in the towns of Sidney, Piqua, and Troy. Includes more than 100 illustrations and maps on uncoated stock, plus lists of fatalities. $34.95; book can be ordered online.

Trostel, Scott D. Letters From the Attic: Stories from the victims of the 1913 flood in western Ohio. Cam-Tech Publishing, 4890 East Miami-Shelby Road, Fletcher, OH 45326-9766 Cam-Tech Publishing. ISBN 978-0-925436-73-3. 2013. 128 pages. Soft cover.  Recounts the 1913 flood in Miami Valley from Sidney (north of Dayton) to Hamilton (south of Dayton) in the words of the flood survivors themselves in letters. Have not seen the actual book. The author writes: “All the letters came from newspapers where the originals had been submitted for reprint by persons to whom they were originally addressed in 1913, nothing out of any historical society or archive, that stuff had all been reprinted several times over the years and I wanted fresh materials, so I went hunting for it. 20 photos and illustrations.” $18.95; book can be ordered online.

Troy Historical Society. Troy and the Great Flood of 1913. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-9059-2. 2012. 128 pages. Bibliography. Index. Softbound. Part of Arcadia’s Images of America series, this picture book features some 200 images on coated paper from various historical archives in Troy, Ohio, north of Dayton. Troy’s story, including the loss of 15 lives directly to drowning and countless others from injury and disease, has largely been overshadowed by the publicity about Dayton at the time. But for the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, the Troy History Committee interviewed Troy flood survivors and preserved the interviews on audio tape, which form the basis of stories told in this book of disaster and rebuilding. As per Arcadia’s usual pattern for its local histories, the book is widely available in the upper Miami Valley area north of Dayton, but not necessarily in more distant bookstores. Copies also can be ordered ($21.99 cover price) through Arcadia.

Williams, Geoff. Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed it Forever. Pegasus. 2013. ISBN 978-1-60598-404-9. ix. 356 pages. Index. Hardcover. Despite the sweeping and definitive-sounding subtitle, the first 310 pages of the book focus just on flood week mainly in the Midwest from Easter Sunday, March 23 through Saturday, March 29, in a fictionalized moment-by-moment recounting of personal experiences primarily from flood victims as gleaned from newspaper accounts, heavily focused on Ohio. A 28-page epilogue is a timeline of the subsequent century 1913-2011, briefly highlighting aspects of the flood’s destruction down the Mississippi and noting what happened in later decades to the various people the author had introduced earlier in the book. No bibliography, but a final acknowledgments section lists the newspapers read and some librarians and other sources consulted. $28.95. Available at bookstores.

Full-length documentaries

Devil Clouds: Tornadoes Strike Nebraska. The 1913 Easter Tornadoes. NET – Nebraska Public Television. 2013. Running time 56:55 minutes. Online description: “Developed in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the event (which took place on March 23, 1913), it’s a story full of heroes and colorful characters; a story of tragedy, but also recovery and resolve; and the story of a city and state in transition. It’s a story so well documented visually that it offers an intriguing glimpse into the disaster, and the lives of 1913 Nebraskans in places like Omaha, Ralston, Yutan and Otoe (called Berlin at the time).” Entire documentary can be viewed online. Fabulous additional resources—including videos about the Berlin and Yutan tornadoes in the same tornado family—appear online (scroll down to section "Related Media" at right).

Goodbye, The Levee Has Broken: The Story of the Great Dayton Flood. ThinkTV - Greater Dayton Public Television. Produced in partnership with the Montgomery County Historical Society. 2010. Running time 54:50 minutes. Jacket copy: “Recounts the day-by-day events of the flood, as experienced by its victims and survivors. Their harrowing stories, taken from diaries, letters, and newspaper articles, are brought to life through drawings, film footage, and rarely-seen archival photographs. Emmy-award-winning producer Shawn Brady bring these elements together for the first time in an emotionally-charged recreation of the extraordinary event that once held an entire nation spellbound.” Entire documentary can be viewed online.

Twentieth-century books

Becker, Carl M., and Patrick B. Nolan. Keeping the Promise: A Pictorial History of the Miami Conservancy District. Landfall Press. Dayton, OH. 1988. ISBN 0-913428-65-5 clothbound; 0-913428-66-2 paperback. 208 pages. Appendices. Several hundred photographs from the collections of Wright State University, the Miami Conservancy District, and other archives that depict the flooding around the Miami Valley in Ohio, including Piqua and Troy and rural areas as well as in Dayton and Hamilton, and then document the construction of the Miami Conservation District dry dams. Published in time for the 75th anniversary of the 1913 flood. You may get lucky and find a copy second-hand.

Eckert, Allan W. A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood. Landfall Press. Dayton, OH. 1981 (a reprint of the original published by Little, Brown, & Co. in 1965, shortly after the 50th anniversary of the flood) ISBN 0-913428-02-7.  341 pages. There may have also been a 1997 reprint. Fictionalized account of the 1913 flood in Dayton that has proven highly influential in keeping the memory alive (the musical stage play 1913 performed most recently in January-February 2013 at Wright State University is based on the book). No bibliography or footnotes, but a brief acknowledgment section about sources. Second-hand copies are available (at sometimes dismayingly high prices), but the entire text of the book is available online.

Friermood, Elisabeth Hamilton. Promises in the Attic. Landfall Press. Dayton, OH. 1960. My copy says reprinted 1982 and 1986, but online I’ve also seen the date 1975. One edition may have been published by Doubleday & Co. 226 pages. A teen historical novel about a 17-year-old high-school senior girl who wants to be a writer, and gets her first opportunities at reporting and writing during the 1913 flood in Dayton. The fictional character interacts with real individuals (e.g., NCR president John H. Patterson), and the flood is described from the viewpoint of its happening to her and her family. The portion of the book concerned with the flood begins around page 90. Turns up second-hand.

©2013 Trudy E. Bell. For permission to reprint or use, contact Trudy E. Bell at t.e.bell@ieee.org

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