The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will be hosting Donald C. Jackson, who will give a talk on his new book about the St. Francis Dam disaster: “Heavy Ground: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster”.
The talk will be given at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at the Old Town Newhall Library, 24500 Main St., in Newhall, California.
Admission will be free. For more information on this and other upcoming programs from the SCVHS, please call Alan Pollack at 661-254-1275. Website: www.scvhs.org.
Minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending more than 12 billion gallons of water surging through California’s Santa Clara Valley and killing some 400 people, causing the greatest civil engineering disaster in twentieth-century American history. This extensively illustrated volume gives an account of how the St. Francis Dam came to be built, the reasons for its collapse, the terror and heartbreak brought by the flood, the efforts to restore the Santa Clara Valley, the political factors influencing investigations of the failure, and the effect of the disaster on dam safety regulation. Underlying all is a consideration of how the dam—and the disaster—were inextricably intertwined with the life and career of William Mulholland.
“[Heavy Ground] does something unexpected. It opens a new perspective onto William Mulholland… [bringing him] to life in all his sharp-elbowed, stubborn glory, saddened and perplexed by the St. Francis Dam debacle yet prideful until the end.”—Wall Street Journal
“Heavy Ground offers a penetrating analysis of the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster. William Mulholland had designed the dam—so critical to Los Angeles’ hydraulic ambitions—and his reputation was destroyed when the dam’s late-night collapse killed more than 400 people living downstream along the Santa Clara River. But historians Hundley and Jackson do more than pick through the wreckage: theirs is an engrossing narrative, thoroughly researched, extensively illustrated, and deeply satisfying—the single best study of a very dark time.”—Char Miller, Pomona College
About the Presenter:
Donald C. Jackson
Cornelia F. Hugel Professor of History at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania
And Co-Author of Privilege and Responsibility: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster (2004)
A member of the Lafayette College history department for over 25 years, DC Jackson holds a B.S. degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College (he also passed the Engineer-in-Training exam administered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – in more recent years this exam has been renamed the “Fundamentals of Engineering Exam” or FE). After working for several years with the Historic American Engineering Record in the National Park Service, he received a M.A. and Ph.D in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.
He is co-author with the late Norris Hundley, jr. of Heavy Ground: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster (Huntington Library Press and University of California Press, 2015), author of Pastoral and Monumental: Dams, Postcards and the American Landscape (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), co-author with David Billington of Big Dams of the New Deal Era: a Confluence of Engineering and Politics (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), Great American Bridges and Dams (John Wiley, 1988) now in its third printing, as well as the award-winning Building the Ultimate Dam: John S, Eastwood and the Control of Water in the American West (University Press of Kansas, 1995). His international stature as a dam historian is reflected in his editorship of the book Dams: Studies in the History of Civil Engineering published by the British-based publishers Ashgate/Variorum in 1998.
With Norris Hundley Jr. he co-authored “Privilege and Responsibility: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam disaster published in California History in 2004. His article “Structural Art: John S. Eastwood and the Multiple Arch Dam” was published in 2009 in Engineering History and Heritage published by the Institution of Civil Engineers; it was awarded the 2010 Overseas Prize by the ICE. His scholarly article in Technology and Culture on Roosevelt Dam and the early history of the U.S. Reclamation Service was honored by the Western History Association as Ray Billington Prize for the best article on Western history. He has also authored essays on “Dams” and “Water Policy in the American West.” for Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia.
For over 30 years DC Jackson has explored the world of water history and developed an excellent understanding of archival resources and publications documenting this history. During his career he has held research fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, The Huntington Library in San Marino, Califonia, the Eleutherian Mill/Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Dibner Institute (previously affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and now affiliated with The Huntington Library). Among other sources, he has made extensive use of the Library of Congress, the National Archives and the Water Resources Center Archives (originally housed at the University of California, Berkeley and now affiliated with UC Riverside). Through it all, he has kept his eyes open wide and gained a great knowledge of dam and water history.