Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919” as Want to Read:
Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  1,820 ratings  ·  303 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
Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 16th 2004 by Beacon Press (first published 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dark Tide, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dark Tide

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskeyMystic River by Dennis LehaneThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodConfidential Communications by J.R. ReardonJohnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Boston Books
24th out of 182 books — 179 voters
On the Laps of Gods by Robert WhitakerThe Given Day by Dennis LehaneParis 1919 by Margaret MacMillan1919 by John Dos PassosRed Summer by Cameron McWhirter
Books about the year 1919
7th out of 75 books — 15 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Nov 19, 2012 George rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history trivia mavens
Shelves: ipad, non-fiction

“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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
NancyL Luckey
Had no idea there was a molasses flood in 1919. Interesting book about the history of Boston, as well.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leslie Mesmer
I was so disappointed in this book. The author spent more time covering the anarchists and the politics and ethnic unrest than he did on the flood itself.
The building of the tank was heavily covered but only spent barely a chapter on the actual flood.
Not even the trial itself was covered very much. Just a few key points that had already been heavily covered in book.
I will not be recommending this book to anyone.
Very interesting reading about a preventable tragedy of the early industrial age. I'd heard of the flood on a tour of Boston a few years ago and am ashamed to admit I laughed when I first was told of it -- a Molasses flood, after all, sounds ridiculous. But it was no joke: twenty people died and many more were injured or lost property. Puleo makes a good story of the construction of the tank, the flood and the rescue work, and the trial that followed. The book pulls the reader in and informs wit ...more
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
Sandy H
I found the subject matter interesting as this is something I'd never heard of before a friend mentioned reading this book. However, I found the author's style problematic. I'd just finished reading Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, so it was impossible for me to not compare the two. Triangle was by far a superior book, in my opinion.

First and foremost, the thing that bothered me most is that in Dark Tide, the author includes a lot of detail that he couldn't possibly have gotten from any
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
South Shore Readers: 95th Anniversary of Molasses Flood 1 13 Jan 15, 2014 06:54AM  
  • Fire in the Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath
  • American Passage: The History of Ellis Island
  • Curse Of The Narrows
  • Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum
  • Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook
  • Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894
  • The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy
  • Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
  • Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America
  • Triangle: The Fire That Changed America
  • To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire
  • The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche
  • Firestorm at Peshtigo: A Town, Its People, and the Deadliest Fire in American History
  • The Great Depression: America 1929-1941
  • San Francisco Is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires
  • Sinking of the Eastland
  • Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
  • Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties
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

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…