Other Event Detail

Boston Molasses Disaster
Boston, MA

January 15, 1919

The North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts had a catastrophe on January 15, 1919, that has become known as the Boston Molasses Disaster. A 50 foot high and 90 foot in diamete tank containing 2.2 million gallons of molasses at the Purity Distilling Company facility ruptured and sent its contents flying out in a wave between 8 and 15 feet high moving at 35 miles per hour, with a force of 2 tons per square foot. The monstrous wave of molasses engulfed everything within a two-block area. The devastation was horrific: the buildings on the dock were flattened or swept off their foundations and crushed. Employees of the Public Works department, firemen on duty in a nearby station, and children playing in the street were knocked over and drowned or crushed by the sheer force of 26,000,000 pounds of molasses. The cause is believed to be a poorly constructed and maintained, possibly overfilled, tank. Fermentation could have occurred in the tank causeing a buildup of gas, and it is thought that the unusual increase in the local temperatures that occurred over the previous day had something to do with it; the air temperature rose from 2?F to 40?F. Twenty-one people were killed, and 150 were injured. Rescuers found it difficult to make their way through the knee-deep sticky mess to help the victims, and it was four days before they stopped searching for victims. It took over 87,000 man-hours to remove the molasses from the cobblestone streets, theaters, businesses, automobiles, and homes, and the harbor ran brown until the summer.

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