The Deadly Molasses Flood of Boston

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Has anyone ever heard this story before?

This is straight out of a “strange but true” chapter of American History. I know this has nothing to do with the Smoky Mountains or the outdoors, but it’s so bizarre, I had to point it out.

I caught wind of the story while watching Good Eats on the Food Network earlier this week.

As the story goes, in January of 1919, a 50-foot-high steel tank, holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses, burst and sent a wave of molasses rushing down Commercial Street in the North End neighborhood of Boston. The gooey surge killed 21 people and injured at least 150.

Moving like hot molten lava, a 15-foot wave of molasses, moving at an estimated 35 mph, buckled the elevated railroad tracks, crushed buildings and inundated the neighborhood. It even lifted a train off its tracks. Several blocks of the neighborhood were flooded to a depth of 2 to 3 feet.

Most of the people who died were crushed or drowned in the molasses. There’s one story of a firefighter who became trapped underneath his crushed firehouse. He was able to keep his head above the molasses for three or four hours before he finally succumbed and drowned.

The tank was owned by the Purity Distilling Company who used the molasses for the production of rum and industrial alcohol.

It took over 87,000 man hours to clean the sticky mess from the cobblestone streets, theaters, businesses, automobiles, and homes. Boston Harbor was still brown with molasses until summer.
The Great Molasses Flood, as it became to be known as, has entered local folklore. Some residents claim that on hot summer days the area still smells of molasses.

For more information on this story, please click here.

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1 comment

Anonymous said...

Very bizarre...never heard of it before.