• Neil M. Coleman


It was a classic tale of power over truth, partly revealed by the power of the press, our precious gift from the founding fathers. Key members of the South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club had the motives and the power to influence the timing and the content of the investigation report. It was all done through the railroad men. The Club was fortunate in 1889 – ASCE’s president was engineer and railroad man, Max Becker. He was the Chief Engineer of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway, a company controlled via stock ownership by the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). His railway’s eastward movements, passengers, and cargos had to be coordinated through Pittsburgh. And the Superintendent of the PRR’s Pittsburgh division was the Club’s own Robert Pitcairn, a boyhood and lifelong friend of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie clearly distanced himself from the Johnstown flood, never mentioning the tragedy or his Club membership in an autobiography published after his death. Scores of pages from the Club’s guestbook that would have confirmed his visits were torn out of the register.


Johnstown flood 1889 Max Becker James Francis William Worthen Alphonse Fteley Robert Pitcairn Power Pennsylvania railroad South fork Neil Coleman 

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil M. Coleman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Energy and Earth ResourcesUniversity of Pittsburgh at JohnstownJohnstownUSA

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