The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
Shortly after noon on January 15, 1919, a 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of
molasses collapsed on Boston’s waterfront, disgorging it
s contents in a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that traveled at 35 miles per hour. The Great Boston Molasses Flood claimed the livesof 21 people and caused widespread destruction. For the first time, the story of the flood is toldhere in its full historic
al context, from the tank’s construction in 1915 through the multiyear
lawsuit that followed the disaster.
uses the gripping drama of the flood to examine thesweeping changes brought about by World War I, Prohibition, the anarchist movement,imm
igration, and the expanding role of big business in society. It’s also a chronicle of the
courage of ordinary people, from the firemen caught in an unimaginable catastrophe to thesoldier-lawyer who presided over the lawsuit with heroic impartiality.
What surprised you most about the story of the molasses flood?
If you had been told about the flood in the past, how did this account differ from thestories you had heard?
What did you think about the way this historic event was presented? How did the focuson individual characters and their unique experiences help tell the story?
Which character did you find most compelling, and why?