The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 2000, Volume 46, Number 1
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

Book Notes

The St. Francis Dam Disaster Revisited  

Edited by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. Los Angeles and Ventura: Historical Society of Southern California and Ventura County Museum of History and Art, 1995. Illustrations, photo essay, notes, v + 182 pages. Price Unavailable.

When the city of Los Angeles’ St. Francis Dam collapsed on 12/13 March 1928, it killed at least 450 people (making it still the largest dam disaster in United States history) and also greatly eroded the reputation of William Mulholland, who had brilliantly engineered Los Angeles’ development of water resources which made possible its growth into one of the largest cities in the nation. This book includes a geological engineer’s excellent (if sometimes a little technical) account of the dam, its collapse and why; Mulholland’s granddaughter’s memoir of the man and the dam; a photo essay of the disaster; and Abraham Hoffman’s article on Charles Outland, a Ventura area historian whose work on the history of the event dominates our knowledge of it. This is both an excellent introduction to the disaster for the general reader, and a substantial contribution to our knowledge of why it occurred, which will appeal to the specialist.