Twisted Rails, Sunken Ships: The Rhetoric of Nineteenth Century Steamboat and Railroad Accident Investigation Reports, 1833-1879, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Twisted Rails, Sunken Ships

The Rhetoric of Nineteenth Century Steamboat and Railroad Accident Investigation Reports, 1833-1879, 1st Edition

By John R. Brockman

Routledge

286 pages

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Description

Contemporary disaster investigation reports into the Shuttle, Three Mile Island, or the World Trade Centre did not happen by chance, but were the result of an evolution of the discourse communities involved with investigating technological accidents. The relationships of private companies, coroners, outside experts, and government investigators all had to be developed and experimented with before a genre of investigation reports could exist. This book is the story of the evolution of these investigation discourse communities in published reports written between 1833 and 1879. Using the reports generated by seven different accidents on railroads and steamboats between 1833 and 1876, it is possible to observe the changes in how these reports interacted and changed over the course of the nineteenth century: The Explosion of the Steamboat New England in the Connecticut River, 1833; The Explosion of the Locomotive Engine Richmond near Reading Pennsylvania, 1844; The Explosion of the Steam Boat Moselle in Cincinatti, 1838; The Camden and Amboy Railroad Collision in Burlington, New Jersey, 1855; The Gasconade Bridge Collapse on the Pacific Railroad in Missouri, 1855; The Eastern Railroad Collision in Revere, Massachusetts, 1871; The Ashtabula Railroad Bridge Collapse in Ohio, 1876

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Dance of Nineteenth Century Steamboat and Railroad Accident Investigation Reports

Two 1911 ICC Reports

Shifts in America Affecting Accident Investigation Reports

Three Shifts in the Discourse Community

PART ONE: USING SCIENCE AS A CORPORATE DEFENSE

Chapter 1: The Collaboration of Science and the Corporations Takes Center Stage While the Coroner's Jury is Befuddled by Complexity

The Accident-The Explosion of the Steam Boat New England, October 9, 1883

The Coroner's Jury Investigation

The Company Investigation Report Exonerates Its Actions Using Science

Establishing a Scientific Ethos for the Investigation Report

Dispositio (Arrangement) as a Means of Persuasion in the Investigation Report

"Outside Experts" Give Their Findings . . . But Not Very Persuasively Other "Outside Experts" Offer Their Critical Comments, But Much Later

In the End

Chapter 2: Science for Sale

The Accident-Explosion of the Locomotive Engine Richmond near Reading, Penna. on the 2nd of September 1844

The Coroner's Jury Verdict-Act of God or an Act of Man

The Shaky Scientific Ethos of Dionysus Lardner

Needing to Present Both Sides when Lardner Declaims

Committee on Science and the Arts Report

In the End

PART TWO: PUBLICITY, POLITICAL PRESSURE, AND EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT BY AUTHORS TRANSFORM DISASTER INVESTIGATIONS

Chapter 3: Publicity, Politics, and Emotions Enter the Investigation Constellation-The Steamboat Moselle Explosion, Spring 1838 The Steamboat Moselle Explosion on the Cincinnati Waterfront Cincinnati in the 1830s: Frontier Law and Order

Political Control of the Investigation Locke's Highly Charged Personal Emotional Involvement in the Investigation

How Locke Used Silliman's Report

The Beginning of a New Approach to Accident Investigation

In the End

Chapter 4: What Happens When the Scientific Ethos is Missing in Investigation Reports: The Camden and Amboy Railroad Disaster, 29 of August 1855

Railroad Dangers

The Joint Companies (the Camden and Amboy Railroad and the Delaware and Raritan Canal) and Commodore Robert F. Stockton

The Coroner's Jury Verdict

The Joint Companies Try to Exonerate their Actions but Meet with Disdain

The Franklin Institute Scientists Offer a Sermon, Not Science The Stockton-Van Rensselaer Controversy

In the End

Chapter 5: The Gasconade Bridge Accident, November 2, 1855

A Celebration with Political Effects

Railroad Truss Bridges

Unfinished Bridges were Routinely Used

The Accident

The Coroner's Inquest

The Press Weighs In

The Company's Report-Does Not Fully Exonerate the Company

Henry Kayser-A Critical Scientific Voice of the Company

Julius Adams's Rebuttal

In the End

PART THREE: THE ANTEBELLUM PERIOD OF DISASTER INVESTIGATION: TRANSFORMATION ENDS AND A CONSTELLATION OF ROLES AND REPORTS BECOMES NORMAL

The Role of the Newspapers in the Investigative Process

International Influences in the United States Investigative Process

Chapter 6: The Eastern Railroad Accident at Revere, Massachusetts, August 26, 1871

The Accident

Instant Analysis, The Railroad Gazette, September 2, 1871

Coroner's Jury Verdict, September 10

Report of the Committee of the Directors, October 20, 1871, and "Justice" in the American Railroad Times, October 21 to December 23

The Massachusetts Railroad Commission Report, January 1872

Charles Francis Adams, Jr.'s Account of the Revere Accident, Atlantic Monthly, January 1876

In the End

Chapter 7: The Ashtabula Railroad Disaster, December 29, 1876- The State and the Professionals Take Over

Four Variations on the Tried-and-True Howe Truss Design

The Accident

The Investigations

Three Unique Investigations

In the End-Move toward Legislative Action

Chapter 8: Notes on Railroad Accidents

A Railroad Philosopher

Contemporary Reviews of Notes on Railroad Accidents

Rhetorical Element One: "Thrilling Incidents"

Rhetorical Element Two: "Accident Taxonomy"

Rhetorical Element Three: "Statistics"

Rhetorical Element Four: "Scientific Analysis"

The Impact of Notes on Railroad Accidents

Glossary

Index

About the Author

John Brockman has been a member of the English Department, Concentration in Business and Technical Writing, University of Delaware, for 20 years.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSY036000
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health