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Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 Paperback – September 16, 2004
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Narrated with gusto . . . [Puleo's] enthusiasm for a little-known catastrophe is infectious. —The New Yorker
"Compelling . . . Puleo has done justice to a gripping historical story."—Ralph Ranalli, Boston Globe
"Thoroughly researched . . . weaves together the stories of the people and families affected by the disaster, with often heartbreaking glimpses of their fates . . . The cleanup lasted months, the lawsuits years, the fearful memories a lifetime." —Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press
"Giving a human face to tragedy is part of the brilliance of Stephen Puleo's Dark Tide . . . Until they were given voice in this book, the characters who drove the story were forgotten." —Caroline Leavitt, Boston Sunday Globe
About the Author
Stephen Puleo is author of the Boston Globe best seller The Boston Italians and the critically acclaimed Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. A former award-winning newspaper reporter and contributor to American History magazine, he holds a master's degree in history and wrote his thesis on Italian immigration and the settlement of Boston's North End. He donates a portion of his book proceeds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the leading charitable funder and advocate of juvenile (Type 1) diabetes research. He and his wife, Kate, live in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
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When the tank finally let go, the coast surrounding Boston Harbor was inundated with molasses ... people actually drowned in it. There were many deaths and loss of homes from the 45 foot tall wave of thick brown molasses and its ensuing flow through homes and streets.
The author has written the only known book about this tragedy. It is written in great detail, including the legal aspects which finally brought to light the truth in a court battle.
It is a tragedy and a thriller at the same time. One wonders HOW such a thing could exist in the first place. All is explained in the court proceedings that follow an excellent accounting of this tragedy. It is told in living color.
I really enjoyed this book. It covers so much, from the history of the molasses trade (including how pivotal it was to slavery in the US), to presidential campaigns of that time, our involvement in WWI, the labor tensions and "Big Business" climate and the anarchist activity (including the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti). I learned a ton and developed a wider context for the period of time between about 1915 and 1930. It even had some interesting overlap with what I had read recently in the Jungle.
There were extensive accounts of personal histories and very detailed backgrounds of the political, geographical and cultural situation of that time, including some fun facts (for example, that Harding was the first US president to arrive at his inauguration in an automobile instead of horse-drawn carriage, and what that signified for the automotive industry). I was fascinated with this background information and thought the author did a phenomenal job with setting the stage and tying together so many different aspects of the story.
Puleo is a great writer and I was easily engrossed in the many aspects relating to this event. His witty, compelling and colorful writing turned dry facts into a very engaging, personal narrative about an event that I had never heard of before our trip and demonstrated connections between it and so many other events and perspectives from that time and beyond.
I think my favorite part of the book was Part 3, in which the author recounts the details of the court case against the US Industrial Alcohol Company. Using unearthed official court records, he was able to quote extensively from the leading lawyers, witnesses and the auditor of the case, Hugh W. Ogden. It was more interesting than (and often as dramatic as) a Law and Order episode.
The author goes into great detail in a "bibliographic essay" in the back of the book about his sources and the dozens of books one could read for more information. His research is very impressive and I really appreciated the effort he took to show where he got his sources and how he applied them.
This is a fine example of taking one event and telling its story in such a way that educates the reader on that event plus all kinds of peripheral subjects, fostering an interest in and excitement for learning itself. This book has prompted interest for me in several different areas for further reading and I'm grateful for the author's extremely well-done work!