The gilded age in The Johnstown Flood

Topics: Gilded Age

The Johnstown Flood is a book that gives readers not only a recollection of one of the worst disasters of the United States but also a clear classification of the Gilded Age. He starts the book with an authentic back-story, covering everything from the types of people who lived in the town, to the changes like industrialization and immigration happening during the Gilded age period, to the political situation. He not only focuses his book on the disaster but also dived into the background of the town so that readers can understand and recognize the real tension at that time.

McCullough steadily portrays the entire process of how the members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club ignored the warnings that they received about the unsafe condition of the dam and decided to compromise the structure of the dam which ultimately lead to the disaster.

Andrew Carnegie, a well-known business tycoon during the Gilded Age was a member of this club.

He wrote a book “The Gospel of Wealth” where he says “the man of Wealth: … becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.”1 But we find that the “men of wealth” that Carnegie talks about in his book were the main reason behind this horrifying disaster.

He also depicts the economic condition of Johnstown and describes how it was becoming a booming town along with places like Chicago which had much greater developments than Johnstown.

Get quality help now
Bella Hamilton

Proficient in: Gilded Age

5 (234)

“ Very organized ,I enjoyed and Loved every bit of our professional interaction ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

His portrayal of Johnstown draws a correlation with the developments during the Gilded age when steel industries and railroads started to expand, which led to increased employment and immigration. Ingersoll, a colonel, expresses his opinion on the relationship between American and its immigrants as “he cares but little or nothing for the sufferings or misfortunes of those who are of a different complexion or another race.”

What Ingersoll meant from this statement is many Americans felt a high degree of resentment towards immigrants coming to what they considered to be their country and that hostility was spilling over to not only the workplace but also to different social environments. It was also the time when laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act were passed and Americans were increasingly hostile towards immigrants.

McCullough provides several pieces of evidence of the careless nature of the businessmen who didn’t care about the safety measures of the dam. He also subtly tells his audience how the media at that time had a major influence on the public. He provides some instances in the book that supports his point, “The Post told how gangs of Hungarians tried to raid unguarded freight cars for food and clothes. The Daily Graphic described how a crowd cornered a Hungarian at his “fiendish work” and strung him up on a lamppost.”

As people were more tense and wanted to know facts, the media started fabricating stories that induced Americans with suspicion and hatred towards immigrants, especially the Hungarians. “The stories spread like wildfire, and with them went more fear and suspicion of any man who spoke with an accent or even looked slightly foreign. ”

Such stories made people punish immigrants for the mistakes that they haven’t committed. These examples point out to the readers that although there wasn’t any confirmation to any of the stories that the press published, people still trust them and punished the innocent immigrants. Ultimately, McCullough presents his readers with a narrative that covers not only the terrible flood but also a broader range of issues in the Gilded Age.

Cite this page

The gilded age in The Johnstown Flood. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7