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January 15th is the 94th anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood. Twenty one people were killed and another 150 injured on Commercial Street in Boston’s North End when a tank of molasses ruptured and exploded on January 15, 1919. Click images for slideshow.

See more at the Boston Public Library’s Flickr gallery.

A huge wave of the syrupy brown liquid moved down Commercial Street at a speed of 35 mph over two blocks destroying all in its path. In today’s dollars, the property damage is estimated at over $100 million. Purity Distilling Company built the tank, 50 feet high and 90 feet wide, in the densely populated neighborhood of mostly Italian immigrants at the time.

The disaster brought nationwide attention to the lack of industrial safety standards. Complaints of cracks and leaks in the tank were literally covered with brown paint by the company that initially said anarchists blew up the tank. Later, a lengthy class action lawsuit brought forward damaging evidence resulting in a settlement of $600,000 (~$11 million in today’s dollars). Although Purity used the molasses for industrial alcohol, some hypothesize that the tank was overfilled because of the the prohibition threat for possible use later to distill rum. Neighborhood folklore has it that you can smell the ill-sweet remains in the summer’s hottest weather. (Sources: Wikipedia, Mass Moments, Wired)

 

Great Molasses Flood – Videos and Media Collection

Storified by NorthEndWaterfront.com· Sun, Jan 13 2013 10:07:11

NFPA Journal: The Great Boston Molasses Floodnfpadotorg
Blogspot
Visiting the site of the Boston Molasses Flood.COOP666
Real News: REAL HISTORY: BOSTON MOLASSES DISASTERthomaspaine3
Slj
Boston Molasses Flood on TVcallenderjt
Jacob…K
Slj
Wikimedia
Whisper #15: The Great Molasses Floodwhisperdoor
Recipe for Disaster: The Great Molasses FloodTheFrase
Are You Painting The Tank Brown? DR Lessons Learned from the Great Molasses Flood.brianpowerwindows
Openlibrary
Mardistudio
walking tour of the molasses floodsushiesque
great molasses floodoweninsville
Molasses and Puppets About the Great Boston Floodthetrauma14

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I highly recommend Stephen Puleo’s “Dark Tide.” The depth of this tragedy and its aftermath are pretty stunning.

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