Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
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Around noon on January 15, 1919, a group of firefighters was playing cards in Boston's North End when they heard a tremendous crash. It was like roaring surf, one of them said later. Like a runaway two-horse team smashing through a fence, said another. A third firefighter jumped up from his chair to look out a window-"Oh my God!" he shouted to the other men, "Run!"
A 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses had just collapsed on Boston's waterfront, disgorging its contents as a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that at its outset traveled at 35 miles an hour. It demolished wooden homes, even the brick fire station. The number of dead wasn't known for days. It would be years before a landmark court battle determined who was responsible for the disaster.
smothered. There was a door and two or three beams over him and his legs were caught in a pair of stairs. He certainly was game because he was talking to us most of the time and tell us what to do. The doctor gave him two shots of dope and a lot of whiskey. I don’t know whether he was alive when he got to the hospital or not. I may get home Friday or Saturday as I hear that they are going to give us some extra liberty, but then you never know until the last minute. We all had to wash every
shock,” and he was bedridden for a month after the flood. His children, who never knew the full extent of his injuries, told me that their parents applied the monetary settlement from U.S. Industrial Alcohol toward the purchase of their first home, “so at least some good came of the disaster.” I met others whose ancestors were killed in the tragedy who expressed shock and dismay at the victims’ suffering but also shared their deep gratitude that Dark Tide finally told their relatives’ stories:
to the Senate. The war must be ended on terms that would establish, “not a balance of power, but a community of power, not organized rivalries but a common peace.” The only way to achieve that end was through “a peace without victory … victory would mean peace forced upon the loser” and would therefore “rest only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last.” Interventionists sharply criticized Wilson for a view that they considered at best naïve, and at worst a sign of America’s
of the molasses tank that Hammond Iron Works had submitted in October 1915. Because the tank was considered a “receptacle” and not a “building,” Hammond was not required to seek a separate permit nor include the certification of an engineer to build the fifty-foot steel tank itself. However, Blain pointed out, Hammond did submit specifications for the tank as part of its foundation permit. Under Damon Hall’s questioning, Blain confirmed that the plans called for specific thickness of each of the
whether something ought to be done in the interest of common safety. As a matter of fact, the repetition of these ‘weepings’ suggested nothing to [USIA] administration in Boston, and accordingly, nothing was done by the administration in New York. I cannot help feeling that a proper regard for the appalling possibility of damage to persons and property contained in the tank in case of accident demanded a higher standard of care in inspection from those in authority.” Finally, Ogden declared, in