Remains of the St. Francis Dam in Southern California,

after collapsing minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928.

Some 400 people died in the ensuing flood...

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What Is Dam History?

Dam Images


DC Jackson Books


Heavy Ground

Winner of the

2017 Sally Hacker Prize

awarded by the

Society for the History of Technology

The Hacker Prize honors:

"Exceptional scholarship that reaches beyond the academy to a broad audience."


William Mulholland and

the St. Francis Dam Disaster


Norris Hundley, jr. and Donald C. Jackson

Huntington Library Press & University of California Press

A far-ranging history of America's deadliest civil engineering disaster of the 20th century...

Available from


Praise for Heavy Ground:

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

Heavy Ground puts Mulholland’s engineering in context and sets him in motion... In the process it does something unexpected and 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."”

                                                      John Buntin, Wall Street Journal, 1/23/2016


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Also available


Dams, Postcards, and the

American Landscape

by Donald C. Jackson

A path-breaking book in

dam and environmental history

published by 

University of Pittsburgh Press

Available From


Praise for Pastoral & Monumental:

“Combining expertise in civil engineering with extensive knowledge of popular images, Donald C. Jackson shows that Americans celebrated dams as beautifying improvements that enabled logging, manufacturing, navigation, irrigation, hydropower, flood control, and recreation. He re-creates the enthusiasm that, despite occasional disasters, culminated during the New Deal, followed by increasing environmental criticism. An engrossing book.”

                                                David E. Nye, University of Southern Denmark

“Donald C. Jackson shows just how thoroughly dams captured the American imagination in this stimulating book. The last word on postcards.”

                                                             Ted Steinberg, Case Western Reserve

“Through the medium of picture postcards, Donald C. Jackson relates the history of dams as a feature of the American landscape, demonstrating the value of such ‘ephemera’ as a resource for historical inquiry and a means of enhancing our understanding of the built environment. The illustrations are compelling and often surprising.”

                                   Carol Poh, President, Society for Industrial Archeology


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DC Jackson understands the historical foundation of America's hydraulic infrastructure and knows much about the history of dams and water resources development.  He also knows a multitude of sources -- both published and archival -- that document this development. Have any questions? Just send him an email; he'd enjoy hearing from you...


Donald C. Jackson. Ph.D

Cornelia F. Hugel Professor of History, Lafayette College

B.S. in Engineering, Swarthmore College

M.A. American Civilization, University of Pennsylvania

Ph.D. American Civilization, University of Pennsylvania