Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Great Easter 1913 Disaster Library

As a gift on the fourth anniversary of this research blog, here in one place is a library of some three dozen books and half a dozen documentary films on the nation's most widespread natural disaster beginning Easter weekend 1913.

Part of the purpose of this research blog “'Our National Calamity': The Great Easter 1913 Flood” (ONC) since its creation in November 2012 is to provide a lasting, comprehensive guide to resources published about the March 1913 storm system, tornadoes and flooding; the casualties and devastation; and the societal consequences, broadly interpreted. As a fourth anniversary gift, here in one place is a master collation of all the books and documentary films highlighted in half a dozen separate installments since the centennial in 2013.

Each entry below gives full bibliographical information in alphabetical order by author or title. In the case of books not widely available in retail outlets, ordering information is also included (if available). As the books range from scholarly to fictionalized popular accounts to children’s books to historical novels, the brief descriptions are intended to provide succinct information about each work’s intention, scope, audience, and approach. With a few exceptions, I was able to obtain review copies or PDFs. Please contact me with additions or updates.

Nonfiction 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 Walgreen's, but not necessarily in more distant bookstores. Copies also can be ordered through Arcadia or directly from the author (with inscription of your choice) for the cover price of $21.99 each (including Ohio sales tax) plus an additional $4.00 shipping and handling. For more information, contact t.e.bell@ieee.org.

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.

Brown, Tom, Warning! High Water Ahead: A Photographic History of the Great 1913 Flood at Zanesville, Ohio. Muskingum County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, November 2013. Only 350 copies printed. $25.00 plus $5.00 shipping; MCCOGS; Post Office Box 2427; Zanesville, OH 43702-2427; (740) 453-0391 ext.139. I was unable to locate an image of the cover and have not seen a copy of the book.

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 in 1913. 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

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 although larger in format, 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.

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. No publication date. 57 pages. The Second Century Series. 

This is a centennial reprint of a book that was self-published by the school in 1994 (in celebration of Culver's centennial). It is, with the exception of the introduction by Culver historian Bob Hartman, 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.$13.95. Available at the Culver Military Academy campus bookstore or can be ordered online.

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

“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.

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

Despite its title, this book is 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.

Huey, Lois Miner, Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio, by (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.

Lenihan, Brian D., Ph.D. 1913 to 2013 in 13 miles: The Hamilton, Ohio, 1913 Flood Then and Now. Bellevue, KY:  MicroPress Books. 2015. Large-format (8.5 x 11 inches), 196 pages. Bibliography. Index. Lavishly illustrated. 

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). 

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 picture 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.

 Mihelich, Dennis, Ribbon of Destruction: The 1913 Douglas County Tornado on Easter Sunday and the Jewish Holiday of Purim , Douglas County Historical Society and Nebraska Jewish Historical Society. 48 pages.

Although better known as the 1913 Omaha Tornado, the title accurately clarifies that the path of destruction cut a wide swath for tens of miles through Nebraska. It provides unique insights into the effects of the tornado on the Jewish and Black communitieis. Not for sale; complimentary with membership in the Douglas County Historical Society.

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.

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 own Arcadia 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. Melmore, OH: Virgin Alley Press, 2010. 290 pages. Appendices. Index. Softcover. 248 photographs.

This book is one of the notable few focused on the 1913 flood in northern Ohio, 200 miles away from the Miami Valley and the Dayton area. Tiffin, on the Sandusky River, was swept by a wall of water that claimed 19 lives. Inspired at first by recollections of grandparents and other relatives, the author—a lifelong Tiffin residentrelies heavily on local newspaper accounts, oral history interviews conducted  in 1988 for the 75th anniversary of the flood, and resources at the Seneca County Museum. 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.

Trostel, Scott D. Railroads of Western Ohio in the 1913 Flood (96 pages; ISBN 978-0-925436-74-0; $23.95 + $3.50 shipping, Cam-Tech Publishing, 4890 E. Miami-Shelby Rd., Fletcher, OH 45326-9766)

This large-format book is the third of Trostel’s large-format local histories of the 1913 flood in the northern Miami Valley. Information about all three appears on Trostel’s website. Trostel also gives talks around southwestern Ohio; check his website periodically for announcements.

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—all the main chapters totaling more than 90 percent of the book—focus just on flood week mainly in the Midwest from Easter Sunday, March 23 through Saturday, March 29. Clearly inspired by Allan W. Eckert's classic A Time of Terror (see below), it is 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.

Twentieth-century books

Our National Calamity; Horrors of Tornado, Flood and Fire; America's Greatest Flood and Cyclone Calamity; Tragic Story of America's Greatest Disaster; all these and others (even sometimes the same book published under a different title) were “instant books” published in 1913—some as early as April while the flood was still in progressthat keep cropping up all over the internet and in second-hand bookstores. Often cited as if they were authoritative references, they actually were thinly disguised direct steals of local newspaper accounts without credit given. A descriptive analysis of the half-dozen century-old tomes is “Profiting from Pain” (ONC March 3,2013). It is a detailed post that pulls back the veil on the dodgy instant-books industry and its 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 among other names]), likely to avoid lawsuits under the new Federal copyright act.

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.

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). 

Historical Novels

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.

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.

Kennedy, Kathy Toerner, Flood of Courage: A 1913 Experience. KY: MicroPress Books, 2013. (6 x 9 inches, 208 pages, some photos at the end) . 

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.

Historian and writing consultant Anne Wainscott may be working on a historical novel Torrential about the 1913 flood in Dayton, based in part on family stories she had heard since childhood. Meantime, in her November 7, 2013, blog installment “Weather Storyteller Unleashes Lessons of Past Storm Disasters,” Wainscott profiled the work of Cleveland National Weather Service hydrologist Sarah Jamison in sleuthing the origins of the monumental 1913 storm system (see also this blog "Be Very Afraid..." about Jamison's research).

Documentary films and videos

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.

The 1913 Flood: Shadow Over the Miami Valley features more than 500 flood photos from half a dozen towns around the Miami River watershed in southwestern Ohio, along with moving picture clips of the flood in progress from local historical societies and quotations from letters written at the time. Produced by Middletown, Ohio, filmmaker and historian Sam Ashworth, the 30-minute documentary premiered April 26, 2013 as part of the Michael J.Colligan 1913 flood history project in Hamilton, Ohio. Background about it appears at “New video tells the story of the Great Flood.” The documentary itself does not appear to be available online, but a DVD is available from the Dayton Metro Library

The 1913 Flood in Morgan County, Ohio is a 26-minute documentary written and produced by Ohio University professor Rick Shriver focusing on the 1913 flood in the Muskingum River watershed in southeastern Ohio, and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District constructed in the 1930s. An overview describing how century-old photographs were enhanced is here. The documentary premiered on March 21 with a screening at the Opera House in McConnelsville.

The Great 1913 Flood in Greater Lafayette, Indiana is a 35-minute slide show assembled and narrated by Bob Verplank, based on talks he has presented at Rotary Clubs and libraries around northwestern Indiana. The full-length version does not appear to be available online, but some parts of it were captured in a 3:30-minute short The ‘Great Flood’ of 1913 by David Smith of the Lafayette Journal-Courier (see also the paper’s March 19 article and March 23 article and video on high-water marks of damages and deaths). Copies can be ordered directly from Verplank for $15.00: make the check out to Rotary Back Pack Fund. For details, contact Verplank.
The Omaha Easter Tornado is a 4:45-minute short that brings to light a tragic song written by Hans B. Parkinson in 1913 after the fatal twister—still Nebraska’s deadliest—had killed so many. Two talented Nebraska Wesleyan University music students—pianist Zach Weir (junior) and soloist Cadie Jochum (senior)—perform the piece. The short is a web extra to the 1-hour Nebraska NET public television documentary Devil Clouds: Tornadoes Strike Nebraska, which originally aired in March 2013.

When Every River Turned Against Us: Lessons from the Great 1913 Flood is a 30-minute documentary film about the 1913 flood in Indiana that 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. It features actual 1913 moving picture footage of the flood itself around Indiana, as well as modern interviews both about the historic disaster and about current flood mitigation and preparedness. It first screened before a live audience on November 8, 2013, and premiered on WFYI Public TV on Thursday, November 21. Produced by Emmy Award-winning TV producer Gary Harrison at WFYI Public TV in Indianapolis, it was created in partnership with the Indiana Silver Jackets emergency readiness coalition and the Polis Center at IUPUI, with assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, National Weather Service, and the Indiana Department of Resources.  A 3-minute trailer for the film appears here. A review of the film appears on page 2A of the November 19, 2013 issue of the Berne Shopping News.

Film footage shot in March 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—is discussed inScreening Disaster” (ONC March 1, 2014). That post also includes links to YouTube and other sites that have preserved some of this historic footage for public viewing.

A great number of additional modern-day videos can be found on YouTube just by searching on “1913 flood” or “1913 tornado.” For example, The Greatest Natural Disaster in Ohio History: The Flood of 1913 is a 4:20-minute short told mostly through historic photographs and produced in 2012 by the U.S. Geological Survey. It also describes how today the USGS uses data collected from networks of stream gauges to monitor river levels and warn the public. 
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 indeed—as noted by Ohio Governor James M. Coxleft Hamilton looking like San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

Fast reference index to ONC
Over the past four years since November 2012, fully 53 installments—many of them full-length heavily documented research articles—have been posted to this research blog 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. 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 those who like stats: ONC has garnered over 85,000 lifetime views, averaging several thousand per month.

As always, contact me at t.e.bell@ieee.org if I have overlooked a resource or if any information needs updating. Happy reading and viewing! 

Next time: Desperate Medicine

©2016 Trudy E. Bell. For permission to reprint or use, contact Trudy E. Bell at t.e.bell@ieee.org

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mapping Disaster

What is revealed when 1913 high-water measurements are input into today’s Geographic Information System (GIS) computational tools? By guest author Barry Puskas of the Miami Conservancy District

[Note October 2, 2016: I am in the process of moving both my office and household 40 miles away. As a result of the inevitable chaos, my next post will be November 1. Thank you for your understanding. - T.E.B.]

Beginning Easter Sunday 1913, 9 to 11 inches of rain fell within three days, March 23–25, throughout the Great Miami River watershed. The massive deluge surged through downtown Dayton and a host of other cities and towns, 
Dramatic digitized map of 1913 flood depths in Dayton, Ohio, was one of nine geo-referenced maps created by Barry Puskas and colleagues at the Miami Conservation District (MCD) between 2008 and 2012, synthesizing data from 1915 hand-drawn maps with modern GIS techniques. For this poster, which also paired photographs of submerged locations in Dayton with similar views of the same locations today, Puskas was received the Map Gallery People’s Choice Award from the Ohio GIS Conference (OGISC) of 2013. High-res digital maps of the 1913 flood in Dayton and eight other cities are available from the MCD (more info below)
drowning or otherwise killing more than 360 people throughout the Miami Valley—60 percent of Ohio’s death toll in just 10 percent of its area. In addition, property damage throughout just that southwestern corner of Ohio exceeded $100 million in 1913 dollars, equivalent to between $2.5 billion and $44 billion in today’s economy (see the discussion at the end of this post on converting the value of historical dollar figures, as well as details about fatalities in “’Death Rode Ruthless…’” and about property damage in “Like a War Zone).

This slide and others like it are courtesy Barry Puskas, Miami Conservancy District

In response to the flood, the some 23,000 citizens of the Miami Valley raised local donations of $2.2 million (in 1913 dollars) by the end of May for a permanent flood protection system (see “Morgan’s Cowboys). The Miami Conservancy District (MCD) was formed as a regional agency for the entire watershed; construction was finished in 1922 and the system completely paid for 1949 (see “Morgan’s Pyramids). The MCD has been providing flood protection since. 

The MCD system consists of five major dry dams (slide 14) that hold back floodwaters in excess of what can be handled by 55 miles of levees and 35 miles of improved channel downriver. The system protects not only Dayton but
The Miami Valley is the land area surrounding the Great Miami River in southwest Ohio that encompasses about 10 percent of the area of Ohio. This area suffered 60 percent of the state’s deaths in the massive 1913 flood and close to half its property damage.

also select areas in the cities of Franklin, Hamilton, Huber Heights, Miamisburg, Middletown, Moraine, Piqua, Tipp City, Troy, and West Carrollton.

The system was designed to protect the valley from not just another 1913-scale flood but also an additional 40% more runoff. The 1913 flood exceeded a 500-year flood (that is, one with only 0.2 percent chance of occurring any year), and some statistics I’ve seen indicate it even exceeded a 1000-year flood (one with less than 0.1 percent chance of occurring any year). So the MCD system protects the valley against a 1000-year flood plus potentially 40% more. That’s a heck of a lot of flood protection.  But after suffering through the 1913 flood, the citizens of the Miami Valley did not and do not want to experience such a catastrophe ever again.

Need for maps

To design, engineer, and construct the effective dams, levees, and improved channels, MCD engineers needed several sets of data including: 1) detailed topographic information of the cities and rural regions swept by the flood; 2) the actual peak heights and extent of the floodwaters for calculating the volume and forces exerted; and 3) some realistic sense of the probability of a future flood of the same or greater magnitude for calculating an adequate safety margin.
But in 1913, only 1:62,500 scale U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps existed of the Miami Valley. Those USGS maps were of only limited use, however, as the usual USGS elevation contour interval was 20 feet, far too coarse mapping of elevations for the MCD’s flood-protection needs.
Just months after the Great Easter 1913 Flood, Arthur E. Morgan, founder of Morgan Engineering Co., deployed 50 engineers around the Miami Valley watershed to calculate the actual volume of water in the 1913 flood. In the absence of reliable maps, Morgan’s men—some dressed as cowboys—went house to house interviewing residents to record the times of flood stages, and surveyed the land themselves. The goal: to deduce the maximum possible flood and engineer fix-it-forever flood protection for Dayton. [Photo credit: Miami Conservancy District]

So, to gather the additional data, MCD chief engineer Arthur E. Morgan famously sent teams of surveyors armed with buckets of white paint fanning out throughout the Miami Valley, interviewing residents about flood heights and times, marking flood heights on buildings and trees with white paint all the way from Piqua (pronounced PICK-wah) to Hamilton.
Then, using traditional surveying tools and techniques, they meticulously measured horizontal lines of sight and (vertical) elevations. They determined elevations to 1-foot contour intervals on flat ground for the whole river corridor where it flooded, and 2-foot intervals on steeper slopes up to 50 to 75 feet elevation above the flood zone. 

By 1915, they completed about 100 hand-drawn, black-and-white paper maps of the valley’s topography and high-water marks plus property boundaries and other essential features. The contour maps included topographical information, 1913 flood limits, and observed high water marks. In some areas, they even mapped river bottom elevations that would have been below the water’s surface. The maps were so careful and precise that they were used by the MCD for nearly a century for estimating flood depths.
Bringing the maps into the digital age
Beginning in 2008, the MCD wanted to digitize the maps so that they could be geo-referenced to a modern geographic coordinate system where the data could be manipulated using computerized Geographic Information System (GIS) methods. By 2012—in time for the centennial of the Great Easter 1913 Flood—the MCD produced dramatic new maps of the 1913 flood. 

The new digital maps are scientifically important, because much topography today has been altered from what it was in 1913 as a result of major changes—including construction of the MCD flood protection works themselves. The new maps would allow us to overlay the current MCD levees and channel improvements. Making the maps digitally accessible also would allow us to understand some of the dynamics of the 1913 flood in greater detail as described by observers or survivors. 

The new digital maps are also historically and culturally important. Mapping the 1913 flood over today’s geography brings home to current residents the phenomenal extent and power of the natural disaster against modern landmarks. Thus, the maps may be freely used by historical societies and other groups throughout the Miami Valley. A few communities—notably 

Large (9 x 21 inches) utility-grade stickers are available from the Miami Conservancy District for communities wishing to commemorate 1913 flood heights. Credit: Sticker courtesy Barry Puskas, MCD; photo by Trudy E. Bell

Dayton, and Franklin, Hamilton, and Troy—have chosen to use the maps to guide them in prominently marking the peak flood heights of the 1913 flood along downtown streets to encourage walking tours of local history. To that end, the MCD also produced utility-grade stickers that can be affixed to light poles and other smooth surfaces to mark 1913 high water.

Converting from then to now
In a nutshell, the MCD generated the new digital maps from the century-old paper maps. As just one example, I’ve zoomed into one area in Piqua: a peninsula jutting into the Great Miami River that we dubbed the Piqua nose, which shows the hand-drawn streets as they existed in 1913. 

First, we took the black-and-white maps and raster-scanned them to convert them into digital form. Then we digitally stitched them together to give us one gigantic map of the entire Miami Valley, through all five counties along the Miami River corridor. To tie them to modern geographic reference systems—specifically to the Ohio State Plane coordinates—we needed features that have not changed since 1913. Streets are sometimes dug up and moved, buildings razed, canals filled in or otherwise destroyed, bridges replaced, etc. But in general, railroad tracks don’t shift much. So the railroad tracks were essential in allowing us to carefully tie the century-old maps to today’s widely used coordinate system.

We also wanted to separate out the topographic contour intervals along with their associated elevation information. We did that through what is known as a raster-to-vector conversion, which simply means converting a hand drawn line from an image to a digital (or computerized) line object. 

That allowed us to create a digital elevation model (DEM) of the region’s topography in 1913, extracting three-dimensional information from the two-dimensional maps. That’s important because water runs downhill—river hydraulics is all about topography and gravity—and features obstructing floodwater flow that can change or alter flow patterns and flood depths.

On that 1913 digital elevation model, we were then able to plot all the high water marks that Morgan’s surveyors had painted and measured—shown as red dots. They plotted and recorded some 1,900 high water marks along the river corridor. 

Then, from those high-water marks, I made some flood water surface lines, that is, making lines that would represent the maximum or peak surface of the 1913 floodwater from one side of the river valley to the other. 

Now here comes the power of digital manipulation. The digital 1913 flood water surface was interpolated to map the edge of the flood boundary.In addition, the data were used to calculate flood depth for every 10 foot by 10 foot area on the ground. The detailed depth mapping was a new look of the flood that depicted much more detail than the 1915 maps. The newly created flood boundary from GIS matched very well to the 100-year-old paper maps; even the dry areas, or as I call them "islands," complemented the original maps.

From this stage, we can now display today’s aerial imagery view of Piqua’s city streets to create a flood depth map for the city and whole region. Once again picking on Piqua, this view reveals how the 1913 floodwaters—which were up to 20 feet deep in this region—would have inundated the streets of Piqua as they exist today. This, of course, is what happened before the MCD flood protection system was built.

Equally dramatically, now that everything is georeferenced, we can digitally superimpose other layers from current aerial photography or any other digital information. For example, we can overlay the MCD’s current flood protection measures: the long orange line around the Piqua nose marks the MCD levees, and the little green squares mark some floodgates on storm sewer outlets so water can’t get back underneath the levees and inundate the city. 

Finally, we can map the area of Piqua—or elsewhere along the Great Miami or other rivers—now protected by the MCD system today.

Sidebar: Gallery of digitized maps
Below are thumbnail images of the digitized maps of the 1913 flood depths in eight cities along the Great Miami River corridor, in addition to the map of Dayton shown as the lead (top) photo in this article. High-resolution versions of the maps are available from the Miami Conservancy District, especially for those communities that wish to create exhibits or otherwise commemorate the 1913 flood as part of their local history. For more information about the digitized maps and high-water stickers, contact the author Barry Puskas c/o t.e.bell@ieee.org.
Digital map of 1913 flood in Franklin, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood in Hamilton, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood in Miamisburg, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood in Middletown, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood in Moraine and West Carrollton, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood in Piqua, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood in Troy, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Digital map of 1913 flood north of Troy, Ohio. Credit: Miami Conservancy District
Barry Puskas, P.E., G.I.S.P.—shown here with the Map Gallery People’s Choice Award he received at OGISC 2013—has been manager of technical services for the Miami Conservation District in Dayton, Ohio, since 2007. Before that, he was a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Mr. Puskas has professional experience in civil engineering projects such as land development design, hydraulic and hydrologic studies, and dam/levee safety engineering. A graduate of The Ohio State University, he is a registered professional engineer (PE) and geographic information system professional (GISP). His technical expertise is in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling; FEMA flood studies; geographic information systems; flood forecast modeling; flood protection system operations; and engineering design and analysis of dam safety and levee safety projects. Mr. Puskas also has experience in management of information technology (IT) including servers, virtual servers, network systems, work stations, laptops, and mobile devices. He may be reached c/o t.e.bell@ieee.org.

©2016 Barry Puskas

Next time: Racing Against Epidemic

Selected references
The text and most of the illustrations in this guest post are based on half the conference presentation by Barry Puskas supplemented with information gathered during a telephone interview with him on June 24, 2016. Listening to his full 45-minute presentation online while watching his full slide presentation is highly recommended for his additional discussion comparing photographs taken during the 1913 flood in half a dozen cities with photos of the same locations today.

There are at least seven separate methods for assessing the present value of historical money (all seven are discussed at the excellent site MeasuringWorth.com by two economics professors at the University of Illinois). They are all correct in different contexts, yet they all yield answers that differ widely. Since natural disaster losses pertain to damage to and rebuilding major projects such as bridges and railways, the most relevant method for this purpose seems to be the “relative share of the GDP,” which allows comparison of the cost of construction of a major project in historical times to the value in the economy at the time as a percentage of the GDP. To compare capital losses in 1913 dollars with 2014 dollars (the latest given on Measuring Worth.com), the “relative share of the GDP” calculator multiplies 1913 dollars by a factor of 439 to reach today’s value. So $100 million in 1913 would translate to about $44 billion today

For more information, see Officer, Lawrence H. and Samuel H. Williamson, “Measuring Worth is a Complicated Question”; for the actual calculator, see “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to Present.” See also their discussion “Choosing the Best Indicator to Measure Relative Worth,” using the cost of constructing the Empire State Building as an example.  

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. Dayton, Franklin, Hamilton, Miamisburg, Middletown, Piqua, Troy, and West Carrollton 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.

Some two dozen more books plus several documentary films have been published about the 1913 flood in various cities in the Miami Valley, including many for the 2013 centennial commemoration. For detailed listings and descriptions of them, see “Book Report!”, Centennial Highlights—and Legacy, “Centennial Year + 2, and “1913 Flood + 3.

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 shipping, complete with inscription of your choice; for details, e-mail me.)