On May 28, 1889, a storm swept through Johnstown Pennslyvania leaving behind wreckage, devastation, and deaths. This guide provides access to material related to the "Johnston Flood" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
“Ordinarily it would have been an arena of hills of hills…that wreathed the white trim houses of Morreville around about, but the clouds dropped their mist of melancholoty upon the landscape. There was something about it all that even a mile away impressed one with a sense of indescribable sadness,” read the front page of the June 2, 1889 Pittsburgh Dispatch. The Johnstown flood completely destroyed the town of the same name and left devastation and death in its wake. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
May 28‑29, 1889
After nearly a day of constant downpours, the Conemaugh River that ran though the town of Johnstown, Pa began to overflow. The dam breaks somewhere between 3:00 and 5:00 pm.
May 29, 1889
The flood rolls through the towns of South Fork and Mineral Point before slamming into Johnstown. Telecommunications remain down for days.
June 3, 1889
Trains resume running from Johnstown.
June 6, 1889
Soldiers ordered to Johnstown to help with rescue and cleanup.