Friday, January 16, 2015


16 January, 2015: Yesterday, 15th January, was the anniversary of a tragic event in Boston in 1919 which initially killed eleven and injured fifty people and dozens of horses. It is still referred to as the "Great Molasses Flood" and while not exactly celebrated in Boston, is still remembered.

Think about it: it's about lunch time on an unseasonably warm day. You are walking down the street, or riding in your carriage, or on a horse in the North End of Boston and just happened to be passing by the United States Industrial Alcohol Co. building when a tank, containing 2.5 million gallons of crude molasses, scalding hot, explodes and sends forth an eight foot tidal wave of the sticky stuff. The rupture was preceded by the rivets in the tank shooting out like bullets from a gun.
the number 1 is where the disaster occurred
It engulfed everything, sweeping away freight cars being loaded on a nearby siding and caving in the building's doors and windows. Workers in the building's basement had no chance of surviving as the burning, viscous liquid poured down on them.
After it blew out the side of the building, it flowed into the street with enough pressure to knock over the local firehouse and push over the beams supporting the elevated railroad nearby. All in all, 21 people ultimately died along with dozens of horses. What a way to go!

The cleanup involved hosing the still liquid molasses into the Charles River (God knows the ecological disaster that created!) and into sewer grates in the street.

As might be expected, the disaster brought forth an epic court battle, involving more than 100 lawsuits foiled against the United States Industrial Alcohol Co.. A six-month investigation, involving over 3,000 witnesses and 45,000 pages of testimony ultimately determined the fault was with the company as the tank had not been strong enough to hold the molasses (duh?). About $1 million changed hands in the settlement. Today? Probably closer to $100,000,000! (just me editorializing!)

So, that's the story of one of the worst disasters, and surely one of the weirdest, in Boston history.

                          Fair Winds,
                                   Old Salt

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