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Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 Paperback – September 16, 2004
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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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.
A bit of everything in this one, corporate greed and haste, minimized immigrants, the urgency of war production, and a ruling against a huge corporation in the Harding/Coolidge feel good era for business. Well written, well crafted, and just about the only book on the subject that exists! If you enjoy history, you'll like this, the characters are well drawn.