Friday, January 1, 2016

Ringing in 2016: 1913 Centennial + 3

This year's roundup of resources includes a new children's book on the Great Easter 1913 Flood in Dayton, Ohio, and two new adult books and a video short on the devastation in Hamilton—which arguably suffered even worse

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 about the March 1913 storm system, devastation, and its societal consequences and implications, broadly interpreted. As my third annual New Year’s Day gift to historians, meteorologist, curators, descendants of sufferers, and places, people, and events that might otherwise be neglected, here are three books and a video short released or discovered in 2015.
New children's book published January 1, 2016, about the worst days of the 1913 flood in Dayton (yes, everyone seems to love this photograph as a cover because it so eloquently tells the story).

Just published on New Year's Day 2016 is Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio, by Lois Miner Huey (Minneapolis: Millbrook Press 2016; hardback library binding). Written for grades 4 through 8, the 56-page book is striking for its large square format (10 x 10 inches) and dramatic layout, with big photographs atop a background of pages from Dayton newspapers. The narrative follows the stories of half a dozen people from various walks of life throughout the three worst days of the flood (Tuesday, March 25 through Thursday, March 27, 1913): NCR's savior John H. Patterson and Bell Telephone's John Bell, aircraft pioneers brother and sister Orville and Katharine Wright, librarian Mary Althoff, rescuer southpaw Dayton Marcos pitcher Bill Sloan, 18-year-old store clerk Clarence Mauch, and coal dealer Andrew Fox and his wife Finette, who had long feared the possibility of a major flood. The two last chapters acknowledge the calamity's wider geographical area and aftermath. A preview of the book is on Google.

Below are three works on the 1913 flood in Hamilton, just south of Dayton where the city was hammered by the full Niagara Falls force of the raging Miami River, and lost at least the same number of lives as Dayton (and most likely more) despite having a quarter Dayton's population. Two are books from the same publisher, MicroPress Books in Kentucky:
Flood of Courage is a historical novel based on the actual experiences of the author's mother and grandparents in devastated Hamilton, Ohio

Flood of Courage: A 1913 Experience (6 x 9 inches, 208 pages, some photos at the end) is a local history by Kathy Toerner Kennedy that was published in 2013 in time for the disaster's centennial, but I discovered only in late 2015. It is a historical novel based on the actual experiences of the author's mother (13 at the time of the flood) and grandparents.As the author notes, the book should not be treated as historical fact (I especially wondered about the recounted meteorology). The flood story begins around page 60, and by the next chapter is truly gripping. Especially revealing were the perspectives of people who experienced the flood from being trapped inside a house, including opening the windows to let in the floodwaters to try to prevent the tonnage of water from shifting the house off its foundations, hearing and seeing walls crack, and quaking with terror when crossing on hands and knees a door laid between windows of neighboring houses to get to a house with third story (reminiscent of the recollections of people who tightrope-walked to safety along telephone wires, see "High Wire Horror"). All these harrowing details were based on truth, as revealed in the four-page written account from the author's mother, included at the end of the novel.
Several hundred photos of Hamilton during or right after the 1913 flood are paired with modern images taken from the same camera angle more than a century later

New for 2015 is the large-format (8.5 x 11 inches) 196-page, lavishly illustrated 1913 to 2013 in 13 miles: The Hamilton, Ohio, 1913 Flood Then and Now, by Brian D. Lenihan, Ph.D. Taking the unique approach of being a step-by-step walking tour for a 13-mile loop through Hamilton, its hundreds of images pair each location with how it looked during or immediately after the flood with how it looks today. Hamilton has one of the largest collections of 1913 flood photos in the Miami Valley, and Lenihan meticulously took many of the modern images from as close to the same vantage point as possible, shooting most of the modern images in 2013 during the flood's centennial. (Hamilton also had what was probably the largest centennial commemoration of the 1913 disaster in any state, with multiple talks, tours, and other events scheduled over six weeks - see the Michael J. Colligan video archive and website). Next time I am in Hamilton, I definitely want to take one or more of the loop routes, Lenihan's book in hand.
Video slide show of 1913 flood devastation in Hamilton, Ohio is reminiscent of footage after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

And in case you haven't seen enough of splintered Hamilton, check out Historic Flood Hamilton, Ohio 1913 Disaster, a centennial slide show of postcards uploaded in September 2013. Seeing the images one right after another in just a few minutes silently conveys the full power and force of torrential waters, which indeedas noted by Ohio Governor Coxleft Hamilton looking like San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

One other 2015 commemoration of the 1913 flood was a huge 5,000-square-foot mural or "wallscape" of the 1913 flood in Franklinton, Ohio, designed for the new headquarters of  Orange Barrel Media (love the name: you know the old joke 
Panorama from the air of the giant 1913 flood mural at the new headquarters of Orange Barrel Media in Franklinton, Ohio 
about Ohio's weather, right? there are just two seasons: winter and orange barrel season). The mural, painted by Emily Jay, was based on a photograph published in the Columbus Dispatch. It was unfurled on March 27. A 30-second video of the unfurling plus several other images from different angles are here, with a news story about its inspirational purpose here.

Also, for any K-12 teachers who might want to fold the 1913 flood into lessons about weather, check out this extensive social studies and language arts teaching unit. Sections on the 1913 flood start on page 4 and goes on to at least page 50. Some of the materials seem a bit advanced for third grade, but the approach is clearly adaptable to different levels, and could work very well as a science unit as well.

Previous annotated bibliographies
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. For those who like everything neatly collated in one place, here are my past roundups of resources on this research blog:

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” (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” (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.

Last year's annotated bibliography "Happy 1913 Centennial Year +2: Books, Indexand Emmy!" (January 1, 2015) introduced five new books, plus pointed out that one of the 30-minute centennial PBS documentaries on the 1913 flood in Indiana had captured a 2014 regional Emmy, with a link to the full movie online.

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” (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” (March 1, 2014) also includes links to YouTube and other sites that have preserved some of this historic footage for public viewing.

And let us not forget the dozens of souvenir booklets of photographs of death and destruction in individual cites, which sold tens of thousands of copies: see "Grisly Souvenirs" (November 8, 2015).

Fast reference subject index to ONC
Over the past three-plus years since November 2012, fully 44 installments—many of them full-length heavily documented research articles—by both guest authors and myself have been posted to this research blog. That’s nearly the equivalent of an entire book. A good many of them represent in-depth original analysis based on new primary sources. And they are read. As of the end of 2015, this research blog has attracted more than 58,000 hits, and now averages about 1,500 hits per month. A heartfelt thank-you goes out to every reader. Some posts have scored more than 200 views in a single day (this year "The Day the Dam Broke?" about James Thurber and "Exhibiting Disaster" at the 1915 world's fair in San Francisco were the lightning rods; "Tragedy at the Circus" from 2013 remains a perennial high draw).

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: 
Terror in Terre Haute (May 1, 2015)  The violent tornado that ripped through southern Terre Haute, Indiana, on Easter night, March 23,1913, may have been more than one twister, and its full path of destruction extended over 25 miles
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 states
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: 
Service Above Life (September 1, 2015) Out of the rubble, mud, and ashes of Easter 1913 tornadoes and floods that devastated a third of the United States, Rotary discovered its mission of humanitarian service. Unpublished letters and meeting minutes discovered in Rotary’s archives reveal the backstory
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) First-person harrowing accounts from people trapped in houses who escaped approaching flames by literally tight-rope walking telephone lines 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, including lessons for current-day disasters:
Katrina + 10: Once and Future Disasters (August 1, 2015) Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina—third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the U.S., based on central pressure—slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast, beginning the nation’s worst and most widespread disaster since the Great Easter 1913 flood. Ten harsh lessons from both
Prayers and Lessons (June 1, 2015) The massive multistate flooding in the southern plains states in late May 2015 actually approaches the magnitude of the multistate Great Easter 1913 Flood in some ways. Message: Extreme, widespread, non-hurricane rain events in the middle of the nation can happen again. Are we ready?
Floods and Other Disasters (February 1, 2015)  Despite more knowledge and ability to manipulate nature, we have increased our exposure and susceptibility to natural hazards. Why? Distinguished Carolina Professor Susan L. Cutter explores our current hazardscape
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: 
Eloquence Beyond Words (April 1, 2015) The Great Easter 1913 national calamity inspired artists to depict fundamental truths in editorial cartoons more powerful and pithy than words or photographs
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: 
The Day the Dam Broke? (October 1, 2015) One of the humorist James Thurber's most famous stories was inspired by a bizarre incident during the 1913 flood in Columbus, Ohio. The backstory…
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: 
Exhibiting Disaster (December 1, 2105) Not two years after the Great Easter 1913 flood, Dayton, Ohio, celebrated its comeback with an exhibit in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco—a city celebrating its comeback after the 1906 earthquake.
Never Before Seen (July 1, 2015) Eight previously unknown photographs of the 1913 flood purchased on ebay portray the flood at its peak in Rochester, New York. Who was the mystery photographer?
Explosion at Equality (March 1, 2015) On Sunday, April 6, 1913, the swollen Ohio River backed more than 20 miles up Illinois’s Saline River, flooding a coal mine that residents of Equality were desperately trying to save—exploding the mine

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. (this is the single most viewed post in ONC, with 3,000 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  

I wish you a happy and healthy New Year! Thank you so much for your readership. Watch for new research installments to be posted the first of every month throughout 2016! I welcome hearing your feedback: please e-mail me!

© 2016 Trudy E. Bell

Next time: Misery in Missouri: 1913, 1993, and 2015-2016

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.