Remembering The Great Flood/Johnstown Flood of 1889

Main Street, Johnstown, after the flood Source Public Domain (Original source:Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1912)
Main Street, Johnstown, after the flood
Source Public Domain (Original source:Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1912)

On 31 May 1889, a terrible flood devastated the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A catastrophic failure of a dam on the Little Conemaugh River, approximately 14 miles upstream of the town occurred. Several days of heavy rains resulted in a large volume of water in the Lake Conemaugh reservoir. It is estimated 20 million tons of water were unleashed when the dam broke. Scientists believe today the volume of water released through the narrow valley to the town temporarily equalled the flow of the Mississippi River.

It took 57 minutes for the water to traverse the distance to Johnstown, whose citizens were unaware the dam had burst. Several towns along the way were hit by the raging waters. Debris included livestock, homes, railroad cars and whatever it picked up along the way. It was temporarily stopped at the Conemaugh Viaduct, a 78 foot railroad bridge but it gave way allowing the flood to resume. This is believed to have made the flood stronger and thus hit Johnstown traveling at 40 mph and reaching 60 feet in height. People who managed to flee to high ground, whether it be in attics or racing to higher ground, generally survived. Many were crushed by falling debris or hit by debris within the flood surge. A second surge to hit Johnstown occurred when flood waters that had been stopped by debris at Stone Bridge gave way and entered the town from a different direction.

When it was all over, Johnstown had been devastated and the death toll stood at 2,209. This made it the largest single loss of life up to that time. 99 families died, 396 children. A large number of widows, widowers, and orphan children resulted from the tragedy. Some remains were never identified and buried in “Plot of the Unknown” in Grandview Cemetery in Westmont. Property damage was extensive with homes and industry damaged. The American Red Cross, newly founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, assisted survivors and stayed for five months. Although significant improvements have been made to protect residents of the area from floods, they still occasionally threaten and cause damage to property and life. The last major catastrophe occurred in 1977 when severe thunderstorms caused the river to rise and reaching heights of 8 feet and more. 78 people died in the area and $200 million in property damage occurred.

Many blamed the dam failure on the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club for failing to maintain the dam properly. Many of its members were millionaires (and the lawyers that defended it in court were also members). However due to limited liability laws and a determination that the dam broke due to an act of God, the South Fork Club was deemed not liable and so no money was paid to survivors. However many members did contribute money to the relief funds for the town. Andrew Carnegie built a new library. Laws would change so that strict liability would be assessed against such organizations in the future.

Post Script
My grandfather was born in Johnstown a few years after this disaster and grew up knowing about what happened. Years later after moving to Leavenworth, Washington (known today as the Bavarian Village) he met a survivor of the flood. She had been a very young girl back then and her entire family had been wiped out. Worse the damage had destroyed the local records office where birth records had been kept. So while she knew her first name, her family name was unknown. A lasting reminder of the effects of such disasters can have on people.

Sources:
1. Johnstown Flood Memorial (National Park Service)
2. Johnstown Flood Museum (Johnstown Area Heritage Association)
3.Johnstown Flood (Wikipedia)

MacHighway - Web Hosting for Mac Users, by Mac Users, Since 1997

Happy Sunday

Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)
Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)

Titanic Shipping Label Auctioned Off

Shipping label addressed to Titanic wireless operator. Photo:johnnicholsons.com

                                       Photo:johnnicholsons.com

The shipping label for a parcel addressed to Marconi operator on Titanic has been sold at auction for £3,000($4,587). It was sold to an Internet bidder from the UK.

 

Source:Titanic Marconi Parcel Label Auctioned For £3,100(30 May 2015,BBC)


Update On Titanic Shipping Label Up For Auction

 Photo:johnnicholsons.com

                         Photo:johnnicholsons.com

A few days ago I reported on the upcoming auction of a shipping label from a package sent to the Marconi wireless operator on Titanic. A group called the Old Moulsham and Central Community Trust is seeking to purchase the label to show a link between Chelmsford Marconi factory and Titanic. They are currently trying to raise money from benefactors to make this possible.

The auctioneer is John Nicholson of Fernhurst, West Sussex, UK. The starting bid is £500 ($775) and will auctioned off on 30 May 2015.

Source: Bid To Bring Titanic Parcel Label Back To Chelmsford Marconi Factory(29 May 2015,Essex Chronicle)


Remembering the Empress of Ireland

 RMS Empress of Ireland 1908 Photo:Public Domain (Library and Archives Canada / PA-116389)
RMS Empress of Ireland 1908
Photo:Public Domain (Library and Archives Canada / PA-116389)

The Titanic disaster of 1912 was still making waves when on 29 May 1914, the RMS Empress of Ireland collided with the Norwegian coal freighter Storstad in the Saint Louis River at  Pointe-au-Père, Quebec. It occurred around 0200 in the morning. Storstad hit the starboard side, causing severe damage. Empress began to list and quickly fill with water. Portholes had not been secured before leaving port so many were open (many passengers complained of poor ventilation) so that allowed a lot of water to enter. Many in the lower decks drowned from water coming in from the open portholes.

Also failure to close the watertight doors led to the quick sinking. Three lifeboats were launched quickly with passengers and crew that were in the upper deck cabins able to get away but as the ship listed further starboard, the other lifeboats could not be used. Ten minutes after the collision, Empress lurched violently on the starboard side allowing 700 passengers and crew to crawl out of portholes and decks on her side. Then 15 minutes later, after it briefly looked like she might have run aground, the hull sank dumping all the people left on her into the icy water. When the final tally was done, 1,012 people lost there lives. 465 survived. Many on the starboard side where asleep and likely drowned in their cabins.

The official enquiry, which began on 16 June 1914, was headed by Lord Mersey who had previously headed the British Titanic enquiry (he would also lead up the enquiry into Lusitania later). Two very different accounts emerged of the collision from the Storstad and Empress. At the end of the day, the commission determined that when Storstad changed course, it caused the collision. The Norwegians did not accept the verdict and held their own enquiry which exonerated the captain and crew of the Storstad. Canadian Pacific, which owned the now sunk Empress of Ireland, pursued a legal claim and won. The Norwegian owners countersued but in the end the liabilities forced them to sell Storstad to put money in the trust funds.

What happened to Empress, though not receiving the same attention as Titanic, was to change ship design. The reverse slanting bow was dangerous in ship-to-ship collisions resulting in below the waterline damage. Bows were redesigned so the energy of the collision would be minimized below the surface. Longitudinal bulkheads were discontinued as they trapped water beneath them causing the ship to list and capsizing. Needless to say portholes were to be secured from that point on (in fact nearly all cruise ships use decoratives that can never be opened). The wreck today has been salvaged many times and is now the only underwater historic site in Canada. The wreck is in shallow water (130 feet) but is notably dangerous dive due to the cold waters, currents, and often impaired visibility.

Sources:
1. The Empress Of Ireland Was Canada’s Titanic(2 Jul 2013, Niagarathisweek.com)

2. RMS Empress of Ireland(Wikipedia)

3. Royal Alberta Museum Online: The Empress of Ireland

Amazon books: Empress of Ireland

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies

 

Titanic News: Dubuque Exhibition Sets Records;Thomas Andrews Home Up For Sale

1. The Dubuque Times Herald reports that 5,677 visitors attended the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium over the Memorial Day weekend. Normal attendance is around 3,000. Once again proving Titanic still brings them in. Pity that Premiere Exhibitions seems not to be making much money these days.
Source:River Museum Sets Memorial Day Weekend Record As ‘Titanic’ Exhibit Opens(27 May 2015,Dubuque Times Herald)

2. Andara House in Comber,Northern Ireland was once the family home of Thomas Andrews. Built in 1872 for the Andrews family, it is steeped in history. The large manor was converted into luxury apartments a few years back and one,specifically Apartment 3, is up for sale. The asking price is £189,950 (about $291,218). Its connection to Titanic naturally draws attention of the curious and serious. According to the Belfast Telegraph:

A key feature of the apartment is beautiful original mahogany panelling in the living room – formerly the billiards room -which it is believed was installed by craftsmen who worked on the Titanic.

If the pictures at Belfast Telegraph are any indication, it really is quite a nice place but the upkeep is likely not cheap.

Source:Ardara House: Apartment With Strong Titanic Links Could Be Yours For £190k(22 May 2015,Belfast Telegraph)

3. Premier Exibitions:Sorry Folks, We Are Still Not Making Great Profits
Premier Exhibitions, which owns Titanic:The Artifact Exhibition,released its fourth quarter and year 2015 results. Here is what Michael Little, the current Interim president and CEO, says about the results:

Our overall results remain disappointing, however our total revenue increased for the third consecutive quarter due to contributions from our Pompeii and King Tut exhibitions which continue to offset our lower revenue from our Titanic and Bodies brands. During the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015, we performed a detailed analysis of our general and administrative expenses and through reductions in headcount and other expenses reduced our normalized general and administrative expense from approximately $1.0 million per month to $750,000 per month. It should be noted this does not include the additional expenses related to the merger transaction that will continue through the third quarter of fiscal 2016. During the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 we performed our annual intangible impairment testing and based upon updated projections of future projects related to our AEG acquisition in the first quarter of fiscal 2013 determined that a non-cash charge of $2.9 million was required in order to reflect the change in our assumptions. In addition, we revalued our AEG royalty which resulted in a gain of $338 thousand and wrote-off $104 thousand in development cost for projects that were cancelled during the quarter.

Whew. Did you get that? The higher revenue generating exhibitions are offsetting the lower ones andtthey generally lowered expenses. They were forced to take a non-cash charge of $2.9 million. Revised royalty income resulted in a $338 thousand gain but had to write off $184 thousand in costs. In short, we still have our shirts on but hope to afford something more fancy then beer and pretzels at our next big event.

Source:Premier Exhibitions Reports Fourth Quarter And Full Year 2015 Results(28 May 2015,Global Newswire-Press Release)


Memorial Day 2015

Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, 1924 Photo: U.S. Library of Congress, digital id npcc 11495
Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, 1924
Photo: U.S. Library of Congress, digital id npcc 11495

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who gave all to serve this country. At national cemeteries and smaller ones around the country, flags and flowers have been placed to remember them. We also remind ourselves that freedom is not easily granted, often requires great sacrifice. President Lincoln made note of this in his famous 1863 Gettysburg Address:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Masterchef US Returns(Season 6, Episodes 1 & 2)

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

A new season of those wacky cheftestants has started up again. A new judge has joined the panel. And the two hour opening took a page from Food Network’s Chopped.

*New judge Christina Tosi is a breath of fresh air. She’s snappy and able to judge the food very well.

*In the past they had aspiring aprons do all kinds of tasks or prepare a meal for them to judge. This year they made the aspiring aprons compete in pairs or in groups of three or four. The losers were chopped.

*A redemption round was added so that those chopped might be selected by one of the judges in a final challenge for the remaining two aprons.

*Like in the past they showed disagreements between the judges at this early stage. Hopefully they will show this more often.

*The criteria they used in determining who stayed and who got chopped was whether the person showed enough creativity and passion that could be developed. Which meant someone who perhaps had a slightly better dish than the other could be chopped.

*I like how the final challenge used Tosi’s must haves in her pantry.

*I thought it was a little weird to have all the people stand outside waiting to learn the fates. Likewise the staging when people came out was too obvious.

*The fashionista guy loves being the center of attention. Interesting to see how it turns out. Looks like from the promos he will be wearing some interesting outfits to the cooking theatre.

*Hey and there was no mention of Walmart at all during the show.

Next week the cheftestants face their first mystery box challenge, severe heartburn sure to follow, and to add more pressure a double elimination.


Shipping Label From Parcel Addressed To Titanic Wireless Operator Up For Auction

Photo:johnnicholsons.com

                  Photo:johnnicholsons.com

We have had postcards, letters and even a rare violin come up for auction. Now we have a shipping label from a parcel addressed to “Marconi Operator, RMS Titanic” now up for auction. What the parcel contained is unknown or what happened to the box. According to BBC News, the mother of the current owner got it from Olympic’s first officer who was a friend of hers. She passed away in 1972.

The auctioneer is John Nicholson of Fernhurst, West Sussex, UK. The starting bid is £500 ($775) and will auctioned off on 30 May 2015.

Source: Titanic Parcel Label To Be Auctioned(22 May 2015,BBC)

 


Remembering the 1932 Flight of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart circa 1928 Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress digital ID# cph.3a22092)
Amelia Earhart circa 1928
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress digital ID# cph.3a22092)

On 20 May 1932, five years after Charles Lindbergh made his famous solo nonstop flight from the U.S. to France, Amelia Earhart set out to be the first female aviator to accomplish the same feat. Unlike Lindbergh, Earhart was already well known before this flight. She gained fame in 1928 as part of a three person crew to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane. On that trip, she kept the plane’s log.

Early on 20 May 1932, her Lockheed Vega 5B took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. She intended to replicate Lindbergh’s flight but encountered strong northerly winds, mechanical problems, and icy conditions. Instead of landing in France, she landed in a pasture at Culmore(north of Derry)in Northern Ireland. When asked by a farmhand how far she had flown, she famously said “From America.” Her feat received international acclaim. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the U.S., Cross of Honor of the Legion of Honor from France, and the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society. Her fame allowed her develop friendships with many important and influential people such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Earhart would continue to make solo flights and set records. Sadly her next most famous mission would forever be shrouded in mystery. In 1937 she attempted–along with copilot Frederick Noonan–to fly around the world. On 2 Jul 1937, her plane disappeared near Howland Island in the South Pacific. Despite extensive searching by the U.S.Navy and Coast Guard, no trace of the plane or its pilots were ever found. The search was called off on 19 July. Earhart was declared legally dead on 5 Jul 1939 so that her estate could pay bills. Since then numerous theories as to what happened have been put forth. Many believe her plane either crashed and sank or that they landed on an island and perished awaiting rescue. Some intriquing evidence recovered in 2012 off Nikumaroro might be from their plane which supports the crash and sank hypothesis. More speculative theories have her being a spy for FDR or being captured and executed (along with Noonan)by the Japanese on Saipan (the area checked for the pilots bodies revealed nothing). A 1970 book claiming she had survived, moved to New Jersey, and changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam. There really was an Irene Bolam who had been a banker in New York in the 1940’s. She sued the publisher and obtained an out-of-court settlement. The book was taken off the market. National Geographic throughly debunked it in 2006 on Undiscovered History.