Great Molasses Flood: A Sticky and Deadly Situation
The aftermath of the Boston Molasses Flood on January 15, 1919. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1919, a massive storage tank failed, sending more than 2 million gallons of molasses through the streets of Boston, killing 21 people and injuring 150 others.

Here are some things you may not have known about the Great Molasses Flood.

The tank, which was owned by Purity Distilling Company was 50 feet tall and 90 feet across.

At about 12:30 p.m., the walls of the tank gave way, sending a 25-foot-high wave of molasses speeding through the streets of North Boston at more than 35 miles per hour. The force was enough to destroy nearby buildings and damage a nearby elevated railway structure. In front of the flood was a rush of air that knocked people off their feet and hurled a truck into Boston Harbor. Most of the dead were either crushed of drowned by molasses.

The syrup made it difficult for rescuers to find and tend to the wounded. The search for survivors lasted four days. The molasses also made identifying the victims difficult.

The cleanup was mainly done with saltwater pumped from a fireboat. The residue left the harbor molasses-colored for several months. Those involved in the rescue and cleanup, along with those who were curious about the event ended up tracking molasses all over the city of Boston. An article in Smithsonian magazine said that “Everything a Bostonian touched was sticky.”

Those killed ranged in age between 10 and 76 years old.

The distilling company attempted to claim that the tank was blown up by anarchists, who objected to the use of alcohol in the manufacture of ammunition. After three years, the company was found responsible for the flood and paid $600,000 in settlements. According to reports, survivors of those killed received $7,000 per victim, which is the equivalent of about $100,000 today.

A 2014 analysis found that the steel in the tank was only half as thick as it should have been and was brittle due to a lack of manganese.

Some say that for several decades afterward, the neighborhood still smelled of molasses on warm summer days.

Our question, what alcoholic beverage is made by distilling molasses?

Today is Arbor Day in Egypt, Indian Army Day and Teachers’ Day in Venezuela. It’s Humanitarian Day, National Strawberry Ice Cream Day and Wikipedia Day. It’s the birthday of French playwright Moliere, actor Lloyd Bridges and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

45 years ago in 1971, the top song in the U.S. was “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison; the No. 1 movie was “Love Story,” while the novel “Love Story” by Erich Segal topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or our website.

Also, if you’re enjoying the show, please consider supporting it through

Please rate the show on iTunes by clicking here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.