June 2007 Issue
The Flood's Legacy
Trudy E. Bell
Around Ohio today, there is still evidence of the 1913 flood in occasional historical markers, such as those between Cleveland and Akron on the bicycle path along the remains of the Ohio and Erie Canal.
The most important and lasting monuments to the flood are five innovative mammoth earthen dams around the Miami Valley built to protect Dayton and other towns from any such flood ever again. Designed and built by the Miami Conservancy District, which was organized in 1915 (its name introducing the word “conservancy” into American English), the dams were completed in 1923, and are now designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Vivid accounts of the flood in Dayton and elsewhere around Ohio appear on the front pages of virtually any major newspaper in the nation beginning March 24, 1913. Dramatic stories also appear in the March 1913 issue of the U.S. Weather Service’s journal Monthly Weather Review, in the special flood edition of the Bell Telephone News published in May 1913, and in various “instant books” published in 1913 that reprinted newspaper accounts and photographs.
Modern histories of the 1913 flood, however, are few. Two picture books are especially notable: 1913: Preserving the Memories of Dayton’s Great Flood (edited by Elli Bombakidis, archivist, Dayton Metro Library, 2004; downloadable as an exceptionally large 70-MB PDF from the top link at http://home.dayton.lib.oh.us/Archives/Flood1913/FloodHistorSketch.html
) and Keeping the Promise: A Pictorial History of the Miami Conservancy District (by Carl M. Becker and Patrick B. Nolan, Landfall Press, Dayton, 1988). For more about the disaster’s legacy for flood control technology, see “Taking Engineering by Storm” (by Trudy E. Bell, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, Winter 2004, available at http://www.tbp.org/pages/publications/BENTFeatures/W04Bell.pdf