Stories of our connected and rapidly changing region.

cpb-logo

What Did 2.3 Million Gallons Of Molasses Do To Boston Harbor?

Wreckage under the elevated where many express trucks parked, Molasses Disaster. Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Wreckage under the elevated where many express trucks parked, Molasses Disaster. Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 is the stuff of legends. It started with a hiss, a boom and a low rumble that eyewitnesses likened to an earthquake. Then a 15-foot wave tore through the streets at 35 miles per hour, on Jan. 15.

The molasses flooded underground cellars, enveloped and suffocated humans and horses alike, and, as The Boston Post reported the following day, “crushed” buildings like they were made of “eggshells.”

After the wave receded, parts of the North End were submerged in pools of molasses said to be thigh-high. A group of sailors and local firefighters descended on the area, working alongside residents to save people caught in the gluey sludge.

Visit WBUR for the full story.