- Hardcover: 280 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807050202
- ISBN-13: 978-0807050200
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,019,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 Hardcover – September 2, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
In this volume, Puleo, a contributor to American History magazine, sets out to determine whether the collapse of a molasses tank that sent a tidal wave of 2.3 million gallons of the sticky liquid through Boston's North End and killed 21 people was the work of Italian anarchists or due to negligence by the tank's owner, United States Industrial Alcohol. Getting into the minds of the major players in the disaster-USIA suits, victims, witnesses, North End residents, politicians-he re-creates not only the scene but also the social, political and economic environments of the time that made the disaster more than just an industrial accident. While the collapse's aftermath is tragic, the story itself is not exactly gripping. More interesting are the tidbits of Boston's and America's history, such as the importance of molasses to all U.S. war efforts up to and including WWI, which Puleo uses to put the tank collapse in the context of a very complex time in U.S. history. The most striking aspect of this tale is the timeliness of the topics it touches on. Describing Americans being persecuted because of their ethnicity, a sagging economy boosted by war, and terrorism on U.S. soil that results in anti-immigration laws and deportations, Puleo could just as easily be writing about current events as about events in 1919. Overall, this is another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is Boston's long and rich history. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From The New Yorker
In January, 1919, a fifty-foot tank filled with molasses exploded, sending waves of viscous goo through waterfront Boston and killing twenty-one people. Were Italian anarchists to blame or was it negligence by the tank's owner, the United States Industrial Alcohol company? Such matters form the crux of Puleo's account, which is narrated with gusto (and sometimes too much gusto: one victim has molasses "clinging to his private parts, like an army of insects that just keep coming"). Molasses was a vital commodity at the time, used in rum manufacture (the tank was full to the brim to cash in on pre-Prohibition demand), and it had been important in the production of First World War munitions. Puleo overreaches in claiming the story of the flood as a "microcosm of America"—an almost obligatory conclusion in this sort of history—but his enthusiasm for a little-known catastrophe is infectious.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
Puleo expertly connects the molasses flood to the Great War (the USIA was distilling molasses for industrial alcohol used in munitions production), anarchism and the Red Scare (the tank was built in a southern Italian district), Prohibition, and the pro-Big Business administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. The author also demonstrates, mostly through the deposition of the USIA assistant treasurer responsible for the tank's construction, the unbelievably rushed and careless manner in which the tank was built. It leaked profusely from the outset. Workers near the tank, even the children in the community, noticed the leaks but the company responded only by occasionally re-caulking the plates and rivets and painting the tank molasses color to make the leaks less noticeable.Read more ›
Stephen Puleo has done a masterful job in this book of telling the story of this storage tank; it's construction, use, disintegration and the aftermath. This is a story not just of a disaster but of the social tensions of that era and the callous disregard for human life displayed by big industry in search of war profits. Puelo however, has also managed to make this the story of the victims of this tragedy. The story is riveting in itself but the author's ability to give a human face to the disaster makes this book not only an interesting read but a touching one as well.
United States Industrial Alcohol (USIA) used molasses to make it's product and that industrial alcohol was in turn used by companies like DuPont to make smokeless gunpowder and high explosives for artillery shells. World War I had greatly increased the demand for industrial alcohol and as USIA increased it's production they decided that they needed this molasses storage tank. As Puleo tells his readers about the construction of the tank he begins to introduce his audience to some of the people who lived and worked near by.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought I knew a lot about this tragedy, but Stephen Puleo does an excellent job of putting some great history around it. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Randall R. Brachmann
Well told story of local disaster set against national and worldwide events and political / cultural / social developments.Published 29 days ago by jjr
I remember reading a short narrative of this in a book I bought in grade school. Years later when I saw that a book had been written about it I snapped it up immediately. Read morePublished 1 month ago by K. J. Kendall
We live in the Boston area. I never learned about this disaster when we learned about the history of the Boston area. The author did an outstanding job; it's a real page turner.Published 2 months ago by Virginia B. Lunt
A marvelous retelling of a little known yet appalling incident. The Dark Tide was VERY well researched...indeed, it seemed as if the author poured his heart and soul into it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by L. A. Veronie II
Very well detailed story and would make a great dramatic movie or tv show leading up to the events of that fateful day on commercial street at Bostons north end all in all great... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joseph M.
As an engineer and lover of rum, the idea of this tale interested me from the outset. It is told well, with compassion. Read morePublished 3 months ago by M. Ulrich
Well written historical tale of a relatively forgotten event.Published 3 months ago by Edgar Hoover