100 years ago, Boston’s North End was hit by a deadly wave of molasses

Welders carefully began cutting up the molasses tank with torches in the search for bodies on Jan. 20, 1919, five days after the Great Molasses Flood in Boston’s North End. Even though firemen constantly sprayed water on the twisted wreckage, it wasn’t until the city ordered powerful streams from its fireboat that the molasses began to dissipate. The salt water of the harbor “cut” the molasses and eventually the welders could see the structure of the original tank. (Boston Globe Archive)
Police, firemen, Red Cross workers, civilian volunteers, and cadets from the USS Nantucket training ship berthed nearby rushed to the scene on Jan. 15, 1919, after a giant tank in the North End collapsed, sending a wave of an estimated 2.3 million gallons of molasses through the streets of Boston. They rescued many terrified people but they were unable to reach others. Twenty-one people died and dozens were injured. (Boston Globe Archive)
Debris was strewn about the street outside the freight house of the Bay State Street Railway Co. The rising tide of molasses leveled buildings and buckled the steel girders of the elevated railway, overwhelming everything and everyone in its wake, (Boston Globe Archive)
Smashed vehicles and debris sat in a puddle of molasses on Commercial Street, the day after a giant tank in the North End burst. (Boston Globe Archive)
The view looking across North End Park, the day after Purity Distilling Co.’s giant molasses tank on Commercial Street came apart. One hundred years later, the molasses flood has prompted books, research, and even a musical. (Boston Globe Archive)
A man walked through the debris a day after the molasses tank suddenly ruptured, unleashing a wave that reached a depth of 15 feet and in places and was 100 yards wide over a two block area. (Boston Globe Archive)
Debris, including smashed vehicles, lined Commercial Street the day of the collapse and flood. When the temperature plunged overnight, the dead became entombed in the hardened sugar. (Boston Globe Archive)
Rubble is all that was left of a fire station. (Boston Globe Archive)
An aerial view of the destruction across the North End after the collapse and flood. The tragedy prompted Boston and other cities to tighten laws regulating development. (Photo from Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 )
Rescuers tried desperately to save the occupants of the Clougherty house, which was torn from its foundation and smashed against the elevated train trestle by the molasses wave. (Photo from Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919)
A flood of molasses filled the streets. (Boston Globe Archive)
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