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1930s & Earlier / Boston Molasses Disaster 1919
On January 15, 1919, one of the strangest disasters in American history killed 21 people in Boston. A enormous holding tank belonging to the Purity Distilling Company containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst under pressure. (Molasses was a common sweetener of the era; it could also be distilled into alcohol.) A tidal wave of the sticky goo anywhere from 8 to 15 feet high swept over the neighbourhood moving at an estimated speed of 35 mph. The force of the wave collapsed buildings and part of the elevated railway system. Some victims died in the wreckage of crushed buildings. Others simply drowned in the thick goo. The holding tank was certainly defective and Purity Distilling was found criminally liable, but the exact cause of the catastrophe was never ascertained.