100 Years Ago Today, 2.3 Million Gallons Of Molasses Flooded Boston In A Horrific Disaster

Spoon with molasses (Shutterstock/Michelle Lee Photography)

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Grace Carr Reporter
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One hundred years ago today, a tank full of molasses exploded, wiping out an entire section of Boston and killing more than 20 people.

A molasses tank containing 2.3 million gallons of the sticky substance exploded on Jan. 15, 1919, while traveling across Boston’s Commercial Street, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The explosion killed 21 people and injured another 150, according to AP.

A fireman was among the deceased. Several horses were also killed during the incident.

While the specific cause of the explosion is unknown, experts believe that the bizarre event likely resulted from gas fumes inside the tank that accumulated and pressured, reaching a level high enough to cause the tank to explode.

The explosion sent a 40-foot wave of molasses across the street, leaving decimated buildings, neighborhoods and railroad tracks in its wake.

Purity Distilling Company owned the tank, according to AP. (RELATED: 55 Injured When Two Trucks Collide Into A Ball Of Fire, Partially Collapsing Bridge)


First responders included crew members from the U.S. ship “Rockport,” who heard and saw the explosion occur. Surgeons and Red Cross members also assisted victims of the spill.

The event has been named the “Great Molasses Flood” of 1919.

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