Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
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Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,423 ratings  ·  261 reviews
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-foo...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 16th 2004 by Beacon Press (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Becky
I couldn’t help but be incredulous about a “molasses flood.” I was doing research into what books I wanted to read for my “Winter 2013 Disaster Read,” which I originally intended to be about natural disasters, but quickly morphed into disasters in general, and I stumbled across this book. Lo and behold a week later it went onto the Kindle Daily Deal and I snatched it up. It’s almost like Amazon knew (eyes dart back and forth quickly). I originally had this idea of the molasses/cornflake lava tha...more
David
This historical event is yet another example of the truthiness of Hanlon's Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” In this case, a cowardly middle manager with no relevant experience cuts corners to please his clueless bosses, constructing a huge, dangerous, leaky tower for molasses in a crowded slum. He disregards direct pleas from people who work at the structure and feel that it is dangerous, insisting that he, the middle manager, knows better. Howe...more
Wanda
I liked, but not loved, this accessibly written book. I had no idea that there had been such an event, and the thought of it was pretty horrific. For all neo-cons, this is what happens when industry and corporations are left to regulate themselves. There is a reason for inspections and oversight of big business. To think of the corners that were cut in the name of saving money and profit at the expense of lives is completely deplorable. Also, the cost of the clean up must have been astronomical...more
Melody
I was blown away by this, how could something this huge have happened and I didn't know? It also made me wish I knew all history, every single interesting event that ever happened. So, in 1919, there was a gigantic molasses flood in Boston, which is interesting enough. Add in the political climate of the times, with anarchists in every doorway, a changing Federal climate, corporations more concerned with profit than safety, and a bunch of hard-working people doing their level best to keep their...more
Danoota
Anyone who had parents who grew up in Boston heard the story passed down about the great Molasses Flood. It was usually told in an offhand manner, ending with "on a hot day you can still smell the molasses". This is the whole story, and there isn't anything offhand about it. A very good piece of social, as well as labor history. I, of course, ended up taking the book to the scene of the crime and retracing the steps. Fascinating.
Lee Regan
p. 197
"In a Memorial Day speech in the near future, Odgen [Judge Hugh Ogden soldier-lawyer who presided over the lawsuit against USIA with heroic impartiality:]would observe: "We have prospered. We have sold goods at high prices. We have accumulated the largest stock of gold any nation ever possessed, but have we done anymore than that? Have we in our blindness gained the whole world and lost our own soul? It was not to ensure material prosperity that our soldiers fought and died...that the rel...more
Newport Librarians
Did you ever hear of the “great molasses flood” in Boston? I grew up hearing about this event – probably because it took place in and around Boston’s North End, and we had ties to and visited the North End frequently. But even I took the reality of this event with a grain of salt.

But it actually happened. Around noon on January 15th, 1919, a fifty-foot-tall tank FILLED with over 2 million gallons of thick, black molasses collapsed – creating a massive tidal wave (fifteen feet high, some say) tha...more
Lanelibrarylady
This book was great - a nonfiction re: the "Great Molasses Spill" in the North End in 1919. I had heard of the disaster (in which 21 people lost their lives, hundreds were injured and multiple structures destroyed). But, I had absolutely NO IDEA of the events tied in with the event...like Sacco & Vanzetti and the anarchist movement, World War I, the rum/slavery/molasses triangle trade. Having connections in the North End helped keep me interested during the descriptions of the legal ramific...more
Kathleen
The writing style was a bit overwrought for my taste at times, so let's compare it to all the other books out there about the Great Molasses Flood, oh wait, there aren't any.
Nicole
It almost sounds like a bad movie plot - a large tank that held over 2 million gallons of molasses burst in a busy neighborhood of Boston, causing a huge wave of the sticky substance to engulf people, animals, and buildings. However this was not fiction, this really happened in January of 1919 and the gush of molasses caused tremendous damage to homes and businesses, as well as the lives of about twenty people. This is an excellent work of well researched nonfiction that chronicles the establish...more
Kathleen Valentine
This fascinating book tells the story of one of the most bizarre disasters in our country's history. In 1919, on the eve of Prohibition, a storage silo in Boston's North End was being filled with molasses which was about to be shipped off to be turned into alcohol. In the cold of January the tank was half filled with nearly a million gallons of molasses. The tank had been leaking for years. Children from the neighborhood came daily with their buckets to collect the leaked molasses for their moth...more
Kurt
Aug 02, 2011 Kurt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bostonians, lawyers, or anyone interested in the history of the early 20th century
Recommended to Kurt by: Dennis Lehane, in his list of sources for The Given Day
The Boston Molasses Flood is my favorite quirky historical moment in Boston, and this book showed me how much I didn't know about the tragedy. Puleo is a powerful historian, weaving together a wide context of political movements, changing views of big business, and military technologies into a hammock in which to rest this one event of 1919. He draws from contemporary newspaper accounts, personal correspondence, and thousands of pages of trial transcripts to present well-documented portraits of...more
Carter West
Boston's Great Molasses Flood of January 15, 1919 sticks [sic] in popular consciousness mostly as a risible curiosity, a freakish event best relegated to one of American history's sideshows. Stephen Puleo has rescued it from that sorry fate, lifted it up for study, and transformed it into a mirror of early 20th century American society. High-handed and shady dealings of industry; fervid dreams of anarchists; divisions of class and ethnicity; gaps in governmental regulation -- all these factors a...more
Blakely
This is an entertaining and immensely readible book.

Puleo does a great job in making the events and people involved in the 1919 Boston Molasses Flood come to life. He follows the construction of the molasses tank in 1915 through the end of the court case in 1925. The key point in the story is (obviously) the day the molasses tank broke, spilling 2.3 million gallons of molasses in one of Boston's busiest neighborhood killing 20 and injuring hundreds.

Puleo also tries to put the molasses tank in...more
Chris
Dark Tide is a well-written history of the collapse of a 2.3 million gallon molasses tank that occurred in Boston in 1919. The book encompasses the events from the inception of the molasses storage tank (Part I), through the tank’s collapse (Part II), to the ensuing litigation (Part III). The book is well-researched and well-written. Puleo clearly knows the subject matter. Aided by, among other thing, thousands of pages of court transcripts, he is able to effectively bring the people connected t...more
George
Nov 19, 2012 George rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history trivia mavens
Shelves: ipad, non-fiction
INTERESTING, ENTERTAINING, INFORMATIVE.

“So that this steel reservoir contained on the day of the accident a weight of molasses equal to 130 hundred-ton locomotive engines…or thirteen thousand Ford automobiles.”

History, mystery, and courtroom drama, with the singularly bizarre circumstance of, as my goodreads.com friend, Newengland so well phrased it, "death by molasses.” Oh yeah, and along with a major disaster, there's a World War, the Great Influenza Pandemic, the onset of prohibition, and bun...more
Victoria
I absolutely loved this book! What struck me most was the fact that Stephen Puleo gave the molasses flood a number of human faces. The majority of the book is narrative by and about the people involved in the flood. The rest of the book is a chronicle of the time period. A huge part of this book is about showing the world of the mid 1910s and into the twenties, spanning the anarchist and labor movements, World War I, the rise of big business, and prohibition. Many of the quotes in Dark Tide reso...more
Diane
This book was an eye-opening look at an event which profoundly changed America, that hardly anyone knows about. An above ground storage tank of molasses collapsed and killed people. Molasses was used to create munitions during the first world war, as well as rum. So huge quantities of it were necessary. There were simply no regulations on storage tanks, where they could be located, or how they needed to be built. This book creates Boston in the early decades of the twentieth century and tells ab...more
Eva Nickelson
I really enjoyed this book, even with its dark subject matter. Cut into three parts (construction, flood and aftermath, civil court case), the book truly tries to relate everything that was happening in that time surrounding the flood. While it can be repetitive at times, it recounts the history as stories and fragments taken from primary sources. It doesn't try to hoist emotions on the key characters, instead Puelo invokes what the reader would feel if placed in a certain situation.

I spent a go...more
Terry Crawford Palardy
This is a wonderful book, the true story of the people of the City of Boston in 1918 who experienced the "Great Molasses Flood" in the North End of the city. Stephen Puleo has carefully crafted a human story out of a long ago tragedy that is remembered by those who lived through it and only vaguely spoken of by people who had no connection. He treats the statistics seriously with empathy and compassion, and gives a clear view of the eventual ramifications this event had on engineering standards...more
Lisa
This book was so interesting, I found myself doing research on some of the historical details referenced (League of Nations, Sacco and Venzetti, prohibition). Puleo uses the story of Boston's molasass flood to paint a picture of life in Boston (and America) from WWI to prohibition. It was a formative time in this country's history, for industry, politics, morals, industries' relationship to their labor force and citizens' relationship to their government. Puleo touches on all of this in his tell...more
Lori
Historical non-fiction that reads like a novel about the devastating molasses spill in Boston's North End in 1917. Puleo documents the tragedy by reporting it's significance in the context of the times, specifically with regard to immigration patterns at the time, bigotry against the burgeoning Italian community and the rise of the anarchist movement of the day (Sacco and Vanzetti), WW1 and start of a familiar trend of national politics and regulations favoring big business and one of the earlie...more
Virginia
I read this as part of Boston's One Book One City program and the story has really stuck with me. The book spans a 20 year period bookending the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. The author weaves in a lot of details and personal accounts of the incident, as well as broader societal context. I learned about the political and industrial influences affecting and and affected by the Flood.

The book was very engaging, as well as informative. Many months later, I still think about the book and ment...more
Susan
I was very interested to read this book - I had heard so many snippets about the molasses flood over the years, but none of the details of how a molasses tank rupture could cause so many deaths and such destruction. I often pass by the site where it occurred, and it was difficult to picture what really went down. The maps and photos in this book were worth the time in themselves; the writing, however, is a little awkward. It's a quick read though, if you are interested in the topic, you need to...more
MeriBeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yaaresse
I admit it: I laughed the first time I heard "the great Boston molasses flood." It just sounds like something out of an Ed Wood movie. I'm not laughing now. Twenty-one dead, over 100 injured, and the destruction of an entire neighborhood isn't funny. In the hands of Stephen Puleo, however, it does become a fascinating bit of history.

This book is an enjoyable fast read. Puleo's style is fast-paced and engaging. There were a few spots, such as when he started talking about Italian anarchists and...more
Josh
It's not often that a non-fiction, historical piece of literature grabs me from the first page, but this one did. It's a tale of the early twentieth century, almost an anti-Gatsby, except for the fact that it is non-fiction. If I can swing it in my budget, I'll be purchasing a good number of this text for my US History students, as another source of historical literature.
Jonathan Malone
What is 15 feet high, travels at 35 miles an hour, and is sweet and sticky?

If you guessed “lollipop rocket ship” than you are wrong and need to get your head checked. But if you guessed molasses on January 15, 1919 in Boston’s North End then you are correct. Give yourself a star.

Stephen Puleo’s book Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 is the only definitive work on this tragedy, and it is good. Puleo spends time investigating not only the events themselves as well as the aftermat...more
Josh Mcdonald
A really fascinating and thorough telling of the events surrounding the Boston molasses flood. It's a story of business and politics, of irresponsible cost-cutting, corporate scapegoating and ducking responsibility. In short, it's a story that ultimately sounds all too much like something that could happen today.
Nick
A riveting account of a tragedy not many have heard of, but no one who reads this book would ever forget. Puleo balances just the right amount of character background and historical context, with the details of the tragedy.
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South Shore Readers: 95th Anniversary of Molasses Flood 1 11 Jan 15, 2014 06:54AM  
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Stephen Puleo is an author, historian, university teacher, public speaker, and communications professional. His books include A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850-1900; The Boston Italians: A Story of Pride, Perseverance and Paesani, from the Years of the Great Immigration to the Present Day; Due to Enemy Action: The True World War II Story of the USS Eagle 56; and Dark...more
More about Stephen Puleo...
A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis: Boston 1850-1900 The Boston Italians: A Story of Pride, Perseverance, and Paesani, from the Years of the Great Immigration to the Present Day The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War Due to Enemy Action: The True World War II Story of the USS Eagle 56

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“This dark-brown viscous liquid, a by-product in the processing of sugar cane, played a major role in some of the biggest events in American history: in the colonial discontent that led directly to the Revolution; in the introduction of slavery to the New World and, thus, the Civil War; in the growth of rum and liquor distilleries throughout the United States, and the resulting Prohibition movement; and in ensuring the superiority of Allied firepower that would eventually lead to victory in the First World War. It all started in Boston and New England.” 0 likes
“Laws are cheap of passage, costly of enforcement. They do not execute themselves.” 0 likes
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