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Up to their knees in molasses, looking for victims

Firefighters knee deep in molasses in Boston

Around 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 1919, a large, poorly maintained tank full of molasses on a warm day burst, sending a huge wave of gooey death rampaging down Commercial Street, drowning or crushing 21 people and several horses and cats as it battered the supports of the el that ran down the street and knocked a neighboring fire station off its foundation.

As with so many other major events in the early and mid-20th century, Leslie Jones was there to chronicle the aftermath.

The Boston City Archives posted this map showing the location of the tank (it's the blue circle near the top):

North End map showing the molasses tank

Boston had long imported molasses to turn it into rum. In World War I, and with the coming of Prohibition, though, the molasses in the tank was meant for production of industrial alcohol.

Steven Puleo's Dark Tide remains the definitive work on the disaster in general and the politics surrounding it in particular.

Leslie Jones photo posted under this Creative Commons license.

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Or not.

Not only lethal, but very problematic to clean up:

Some years ago, I talked to a man who knew the owner of the small Boston welding company that had submitted the lowest bid for cutting up the ruptured tank and cleaning up the mess. The owner deeply regretted winning the job.

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If you can't outrun molasses then .......you must be as slow as.....nevermind.

I heard there was a down pillow factory at the end of the block. Luckily the flood never reached there.

It's literally 100 years ago. I am making jokes. Too bad.

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Too soon!

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Too funny that it's still "too soon" even after 100 years. Lol.

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On very hot (100+) days, you can still smell molasses to this day there.

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There was some excavation for a building under construction there a couple years back. I biked by one hot day and the treacle smell was fairly strong and sulfury. I could see a very dark, thick black strip on the wall of the pit, too.

My husband's grandmother was six years old when this happened, and she told us that downtown would smell like molasses if the wind was right for a good forty years!

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Ronald Mayville, a senior structural and metallurgical engineer with Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger in Waltham, has researched the disaster for years in his spare time.

He tells The Boston Globe the walls of the tank were at least 50 percent too thin and the type of steel used was brittle because it contained a low amount of the chemical element manganese, making it more likely to crack.

His research was featured in the September edition of Civil and Structural Engineer Magazine.

Found in this article: http://www.wcvb.com/news/engineer-sheds-new-light-on-boston-molasses-dis...

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But the part that got me in Puleo's book was the section on how leaks from the tank were so noticeable that the company finally felt compelled to do something: They painted the tank a darker color so that the leaks wouldn't be so noticeable.

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It also cuts to the quick regarding the poor construction of the molasses container, not to mention the much-too-close proximity of a densely-populated residential area, to boot.

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The gigantic vat that contained the molasses was poorly constructed to begin with, because a lot of short-cuts were taken that shouldn't have been taken, during the process of constructing the vat. Sadly, the United States has learned nothing from that, because this kind of shoddy construction, often resulting from taking short-cuts, still goes on, even today. This is especially true today, due to the fact that most of our manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, exploiting people from third-world countries, which, all too often, not only lack the technical know-how to make products properly, but use the cheapest, crappiest materials, to boot.

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I had always mistakenly thought the tank was up on the hill on the other side of Commercial Street, in the little triangle just above (North of?) Charter Street and left of Copps Hill Terraces on this map. My dad was a kid and dirt poor, he distinctly remembered having fetched buckets of free molasses.

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crushing 21 people and several horses and cats

Poor horsies and peoples, too!

We need some sticky mess cat pics!

IMAGE(http://cdn2.holytaco.com/wp-content/uploads/images/2009/12/_42014614_cat_oil_416afp.jpg)

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