Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Great Molasses Disaster of 1919

On January 15, 1919, an enormous tank of molasses, destined for distillation into industrial alcohol, exploded. The tank was located in Boston North End, an industrial and densely populated part of town (mostly the home of new immigrants to Boston). The Great Molasses Disaster, as it became known, resulted in the deaths of 21 people and hundreds of injuries.

There are several websites with great photos of the tank and the chaos created by the explosion and resulting wave of molasses.
This does sound sort of funny, I mean, a huge wave of molasses? This was a wall of molasses: two million gallons of sticky liquid exploded out of their tank, creating a shock wave and tsunami of gook that were strong enough to knock an elevated train trestle over, move trucks down the street and knock down buildings. As Eric Postpischil says: "It was like any horrible disaster scene, with the addition that everything was covered in smelly, sticky, brown molasses."

The owner of the tank, U.S. Industrial Alcohol, tried to blame the explosion on "anarchists." The real cause was that the tank was poorly constructed and people had been warning the company about potential problems since its construction. (Another factoid for you: the resulting lawsuit, filed against US Industrial Alcohol, was the first class action lawsuit in the U.S.)

What does foodie do when faced with this day in history? Prepare a bunch of dishes which contain molasses as an ingredient of course!

We are starting our evening off with a rum-based cocktail (traditionally rum is distilled from molasses). For dinner, the no-brainer was baked beans: Boston baked beans, of course. We also will be eating pork ribs that have been basted with molasses and sprinkled with mustard seeds. For dessert, I'll be serving molasses candy sprinkled over pumpkin pie ice cream.

Just for giggles, I also baked a few loaves of Anadama bread.

So have some molasses tonight and honor the memories of those whose perished in this horrible industrial accident.


scmom (Barbara) said...

Thanks for the story. I enjoyed (and linked).

Sunday Cook said...

Thanks Barbara!

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