Just past noon, one hundred years ago today, a storage tank owned by the United States Industrial Alcohol Company. The 2.3 million gallons (8,706 tons) of molasses contained within it immediately started sweeping out like a tidal wave, destroying everything in its path.
Horses, wagons, automobiles, buildings, and even the elevated railway line were destroyed. 150 people were injured, and 21 are known to have been killed. The USIAC eventually paid damages equivalent to about $600,000 in today’s currency. And like so many of Boston’s tragedies, the end result was a change in codes across the country to increase safety and reign in corporations ignoring the dangers to peoples’ lives. This includes architects needing to show their work to governments, certified engineers needing to sign and seal plans, and municipal building inspectors needing to review projects before they are used. All were a result of the flood and the lawsuits filed in the aftermath.
Much has been written about the tragedy. For decades after the disaster one could smell molasses in the air during warmer weather. Those who died that day were just going about their business. Schoolchildren on lunch break. Workers in a paving yard. A fireman resting in the fire station. A housewife at home with her sons. Not everyone died immediately. Not all were found quickly. The body of one man, Cesar Nicolo, was not found until May 12, almost four months to the day after the tragedy. On this anniversary, we remember the victims. You can find out more about them in the Boston Globe. The Globe also has additional interesting coverage about the flood to mark the centennial anniversary, for those who don’t know the details.
Patrick Breen, 44, laborer
William Brogan, 61, teamster
Bridget Clougherty, 65, homemaker
Stephen Clougherty, 34, unemployed
John Callahan, 43, paver
Maria Di Stasio, 10, child
William Duffy, 58, laborer
Peter Francis, 64, blacksmith
Flaminio Gallerani, 37, driver
Pasquale Iantosca, 10, child
James H. Kenneally, laborer
Eric Laird, 17, teamster
George Layhe, 38, firefighter
James Lennon, 64, teamster/motorman
Ralph Martin, 21, driver
James McMullen, 46, foreman, Bay State Express
Cesar Nicolo, 32, expressman
Thomas Noonan, 43, longshoreman
Peter Shaughnessy, 18, teamster
John M. Seiberlich, 69, blacksmith
Michael Sinnott, 78, messenger