Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 1913 Centennial Year +2: Books, Index—and Emmy!

Ringing in 2015 with a roundup of further new (and newly discovered) resources about our Great Easter 1913 national calamity—and kudos to a 1913 flood documentary!

The 2013 centennial of the 1913 flood in Indiana and Ohio and the family of devastating Easter tornadoes in Nebraska inspired a bumper crop of new histories in print and film. For cultural history and lessons learned, however, memories and scholarship must endure into the future, long after a mere anniversary.

Part of the purpose of this research blog “'Our National Calamity': The Great Easter 1913 Flood” (ONC) is to provide a lasting, comprehensive guide to resources published either online or in print about the March 1913 storm system, devastation, and its societal consequences and implications, broadly interpreted. As my second annual New Year’s Day gift to historians, meteorologist, curators, descendants of sufferers, and all those places, people, and events that might otherwise be neglected, below is a collation of books hitherto not referenced:

Annotated bibliographies so far
Sixteen books and two 1-hour PBS documentaries produced after 2000 about the Omaha tornado in Nebraska and the 1913 flood in Ohio—plus three earlier books about the 1913 flood and the resulting mammoth flood control works of Miami Conservancy District—were highlighted in the first resource roundup “Book Report! 21 Books and Films on the Great Easter 1913 Flood and Tornadoes” (ONC, March 26, 2013).

That annotated bibliography was updated about eight months later on New Year’s Day 2014 in “1913 Easter National Calamity: Centennial Highlights—and Legacy” (ONC, January 1, 2014), noting the production of three more books, four more 30- or 60-minute documentaries, and a couple of 4-minute shorts. Also summarized were several videotaped talks, a round-up of TV and radio coverage, museum exhibits, newspaper commemorations (highlighting those that ran significant series of articles or albums of photographs), plus websites and blogs.

A different annotated biography was an analysis of the half-dozen century-old “instant books” published in 1913—which keep cropping up all over the internet cited as if they were authoritative references. “Profiting from Pain” (ONC March 3, /2013) pulled back the veil on their rather dodgy and certainly money-grubbing authors, who wrote under multiple confusing titles and pseudonyms (Frederick E. Drinker, Logan Marshall, Marshall Everett [who was really Henry Neil], and Thomas H. Russell [who also wrote under Thomas Herbert and other names]). 

Also relevant is the discussion of film footage that was shot in 1913 for showing in movie theatres—likely the first time a natural disaster was caught on motion picture film while the catastrophe was still in progress. “Screening Disaster” (ONC March 1, 2014) also includes links to YouTube and other sites that have preserved some of this historic footage for public viewing.

Note before introducing the new resources: Applause is due director Gary Harrison for his 30-minute TV documentary on the 1913 flood in Indiana When Every River Turned Against Us: Lessons from the Great 1913 Flood, produced by PBS affiliate WFYI, which captured a 2014 regional Emmy Award. A 1913 flood still photo from his documentary even leads the article “WFYI Earns Nine Regional Emmys,” which includes a link to the full movie online.

Introducing (fanfare) additional works
Below, in alphabetical order by author’s last name, are five more books on the Great Easter 1913 natural disaster that have come to my attention over the past year (2014). Four are local histories that may be filling in details of ‘Our National Calamity’ that otherwise might be lost to posterity. One is a novel.

Grismer, Stephen C. Drenched Uniforms and Battered Badges: How Dayton Police Emerged from the 1913 Flood. Dayton, OH: Dayton Police History Foundation, Inc. 2013. 

“By any measure, the Dayton police force was undermanned, under-equipped and, after March 24, 1913, underwater and overwhelmed,” writes the author, himself a 25+year retired sergeant in the Dayton Police Force, and thus alert to details of significance that might escape an outside historian. This slim book (110 pages) features more than 70 photographs, including images (some published for the first time) of 19 of the two dozen police officers who stuck by their posts, maintained order, and rescued flood victims, especially during the first four days before 2,400 Ohio National Guard troops arrived in Dayton on Friday, March 28. It is unusual (and exemplary) among local histories in also setting context (Part 1, Police Readiness), tracing consequences (Epilogue, 1913–1922), and documenting statements and quotes with more than 120 end notes. A review of the book in the Dayton Daily News appears here.

Daugherty, Alan. THE Flood: A Bluffton History Novel. Self-published. 2012.

This 254-page novel about a mistaken identity of someone who robbed a bank is set in Wells County, Indiana, primarily during flood week from the windstorm of Good Friday, March 21, 1913 through the following Friday. The five main characters are fictional, although many real people are referenced and the book includes several dozen actual historical photographs (some with captions). In real life, Bluffton was hard hit, and some tidbits and quotations from historical sources do appear in the novel. But as the author notes in the preface, “This story intentionally gathered into a single location as much history as possible, but placed it in a fun, readable experience rather than repeating newspaper accounts or textbook style documentations.” Includes a bibliography and an index of names.

Hinds, Conrade C. Columbus and the Great Flood of 1913: The Disaster that Reshaped the Ohio Valley. Charleston, SC: The History Press. 2013.

Less a local history of the flood in Columbus (which gets only two dedicated chapters out of the book’s 12) than it is an overview of floods in general and other unrelated weather disasters (including the “white hurricane” in the Great Lakes of November 1913), the book also describes flooding in Dayton in some detail, and highlights it in Chillicothe, Zanesville, Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia. It is unusual in briefly wondering whether the eruption of the volcano Novarupta in Alaska in 1912 might have influenced the storm system (something actually that a few people have wondered for years, including myself since 2006). The book ends with a brief account of the Miami Conservancy District and the earthworks protecting Dayton, a timeline of significant historical events in 1912 and 1913, a brief bibliography, and an index.

This is How Dayton Looked After The Great 1913 Flood. Dayton, OH: Landfall Press, Inc. 1973. 

This slim 48-page booklet of photographs was a commemorative publication on the sixtieth anniversary of the flood in March 1973. What is interesting historically is that the booklet’s back cover copy clearly demonstrates how public memory is already disconnecting and fading about the widespread extent of the disaster, noting that “Dayton, Ohio, suffered the second worst natural disaster (after San Francisco) ever to befall an American City.” NOT NOTED OR CREDITED anywhere is the fact that this four-decade-old booklet was actually a reprint of a commemorative photographic booklet by Clarence B. Greene called Great 1913 Flood: Dayton, Ohio published in 1913 by the Specialty Photograph Co. Shame on Landfall (and hurray for the internet).

Miller, Frank. The Great Dayton Flood of 1913. 100th Anniversary Edition 1913–2013. Dayton, OH: Mill-Cliff Books and Graphics. 2013.

This 60-page large-format print-on-demand booklet is based on Dayton: Being a Story of the Great Flood as Seen from the Delco Factory, a key eyewitness history of the flood originally published in April 1913. Not a photographic reproduction of the original booklet, the 2013 type is completely reset. Notable is the quality of the photographs—much better than the lithographed original—because the compiler Miller came into possession of a trove of original photographs several decades ago, and printed the images from those. Also included is a redone version of a 1949 history of Delco called The Spark of Genius, which includes photos of the flood, plus many other images from other sources.

Fast reference subject index to ONC
Over the past two-plus years since November 2012, fully 32 installments—many of them full-length heavily documented research articles—have been posted to this research blog “’Our National Calamity: The Great Easter 1913 Flood” (ONC). That’s nearly the equivalent of an entire book. A good many of them represent in-depth original analysis by both myself and others, based on new primary sources. Because of the sheer volume of new material, and the frequency of requests for information, below is a subject index to the posts (not including the resource roundups already noted above), categorized by general topic. Please note that an updated searchable running list in Word in reverse chronological order is posted every month at the top left link on the 1913 flood page of my website.

For meteorology of the powerful Great Easter storm system:
Great Easter 1913 Dust Storm, Prairie Fires—and Red Rains (December 1, 2014) A mammoth Easter Sunday dust storm set raging prairie fires fires in two states and caused "blood rains" in three 
Be Very Afraid... (December 23, 2012) Why the Great Easter 1913 storm system could recur—profile of a computational reanalysis from 1913 data of what happened by Cleveland-based National Weather Service senior hydrologist Sarah Jamison
“My Conception of Hell” (December 2, 2012) The Great Easter 1913 Omaha tornado
The First Punch (November 25, 2012) A mammoth Good Friday windstorm that decimated communications set the stage for national tragedy
Earth-Shaking Mystery (October 1, 2014) Earthquake in Knoxville, Tennessee, at end of flood week—could the massive floodwaters have triggered the quake?

For facts and figures about death and destruction:
Like a War Zone (March 16, 2013) A modern reanalysis of official documents, revealing that the destruction of property exceeded that of Hurricane Katrina, centered on the industrial North 
“Death Rode Ruthless...” (February 18, 2013) A modern reanalysis of official documents reveals that a minimum of 1,000 lives were lost across 15 states (this is the second most viewed post in ONC, with nearly 2,000 views)

For victims’, rescuers’, and predators’ responses:
Wireless to the Rescue! Birth of Emergency Radio (April 1, 2014) High school and college students are the first to establish quasi-reliable communications into the flood districts, and at the end of flood week bills for emergency radio are being presented to Congress
High-Wire Horror (February 1, 2014) Literally tight-rope walking over floodwaters to safety
Spurning Disaster Aid (September 1, 2014) Why did cities and individuals, even those who had lost everything, refuse relief?
Advertising Disaster (November 1, 2014) Within 24 hours, tornado insurance agents and others were clamoring for victims' cash

For significance today:
Benchmarking ‘Extreme’ (July 1, 2014) What infrastructure today would lie in harm’s way if the tornadoes and flood recurred

For coverage in the 1913 media:
Screening Disaster (March 1, 2014) The 1913 flood may be the first natural disaster filmed while it was still in progress; includes links to surviving footage  
The Governor’s Ear (December 16, 2012) How two Bell Telephone engineers got the word to Ohio Governor James M. Cox

For enduring consequences:
Magnum Opus (June 1, 2014) Stunning murals on concrete floodwalls in 13 Ohio River cities and towns keep history alive--including the 1913 flood

Morgan’s Cowboys (January 20, 2013) What is the worst possible flood? And how can a city protect against it? A young engineer figures out how
Morgan’s Pyramids (January 27, 2013) Building the monumental but elegantly simple works to protect Dayton forevermore
Local histories:
36 Hours: From Boys to Leaders (August 1, 2014) Fewer than 100 Culver Military Academy cadets rescued 1,400 Indiana residents; by guest historian Richard Davies, Ph.D.  
Tragedy at the Circus (February 10, 2013) At Peru, Indiana; by guest environmental historian Ron E. Withers, M.A. (by the way, this is the single most viewed post in ONC, with more than 2,300 views)
Rescuing Albany’s Water (January 13, 2013) It was also the Hudson River’s greatest flood—and what New York did about it
The Prisoners’ Feast (December 30, 2012) How the inmates of the Indiana State Reformatory saved the town of Jeffersonville from floodingand the unique response of the grateful residents  
The Villain Who Stole the Flood (December 9, 2012) How the 1913 flood in Dayton transformed NCR president John H. Patterson—a convicted felon—into a national hero  
An Unnecessary Tragedy: The Johnstown Flood (May 1, 2014) Describing three potentially fatal dam myths that still persist today; by guest author Kenneth E. Smith, P.E.

Record of 2013 centennial commemorations
Happy 1913 Centennial Year! (January 6, 2013) 

Forget at Your Own Peril (April 3, 2013) Why is such an enormous disaster forgotten?  
“An Epidemic of Disasters” (November 16, 2012) Introduction and mission for this research blog  

Happy New Year! Thank you so much for your readership. Watch for new research installments to be posted the first of every month throughout 2015! I welcome hearing your feedback: please e-mail me!

© 2015 Trudy E. Bell

Next time: Floods and Other Disasters: Knowing More, Yet Losing More

Bell, Trudy E., The Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Arcadia Publishing, 2008. Picture book of nearly 200 images of the flood in Dayton, rescue efforts, recovery, and the construction of the Miami Conservancy District dry dams for flood control, including several pictures of Cox. (Author’s shameless marketing plug: Copies are available directly from me for the cover price of $21.99 plus $4.00 shipping, complete with inscription of your choice; for details, e-mail me), or order from the publisher.

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