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*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, as originally published in the Weekly Dig.

by Pink Lady

It’s 1919, you’re a working class Italian chillin’ in North End neighborhood on a surprisingly balmy 40 degree winter’s day. Suddenly you hear a large rumbling, then rapid-fire shots reminiscent of a machine gun. The ground shakes as though a train is passing, and you look up just in time to see a massive wave of molasses twice as tall as you tearing towards you down the street. Before you know it, you’re swept away in the sweet smelling, sticky tide.

Sounds like a ridiculous plot for a B movie, right? But that totally happened 92 years ago this Saturday. A 50-foot tall steel tank containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses collapsed, flooding the North End with its contents, destroying wooden homes, a brick fire station, an Elevated Railway Car, and lifting a train off its tracks. The molasses wave measured 15-feet high at points and traveled at an estimated 35 mph at its outset.

The event was a catastrophe for the working-class Italian immigrant community that lived in the North End, where the poorly maintained tank was situated. A neighborhood decimated, 150 people injured, 21 people killed – the details of the Great Boston Molasses Flood are pretty shocking, even to disaster-weary modern minds. But the scandal surrounding the flood is a fascinating, David vs. Goliath story in itself that is deftly recounted in Stephen Puleo‘s Dark Tide.

119 separate legal claims were brought again United States Industrial Agriculture, which the Superior Court of Massachusetts decided to consolidate into a single legal proceeding, “creating in effect, if not by strict legal definition, the largest class-action suit to date in Massachusetts history and one of the largest ever in U.S. legal annals,” writes Puleo. USIA tried to blame anarchist bombers for the tank explosion, but were ultimately held responsible and paid hundreds of thousands of damages to North End residents.

Pick up a copy of Dark Tide to learn more and relax with one of these as you marvel at this obscure piece of Boston lore.

THE STUDEBAKER

2 oz Laird’s 7 ½ Year Apple Brandy

.5 oz Lillet

.5 oz Grand Marnier

.25 oz Benedictine

1 barspoon molasses

Stir with ice in a mixing glass. Serve in a chilled vintage cocktail glass.

Cin-cin!

 

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