Shortly after noon on January 15, 1919, a fifty-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses collapsed on Boston's waterfront, disgorging its contents as a fifteen-foot-high wave of molasses that briefly traveled at thirty-five miles per hour. When the tide receded, a section of the city's North End had been transformed into a war zone. The Great Boston Molasses Flood claimed the lives of twenty-one people and scores of animals, injured 150, and caused widespread destruction.
But the molasses flood was more than an isolated event. Its story overlays America's story during a tumultuous decade in our history. Tracing the era from the tank's construction in 1915 through the multiyear lawsuit that followed the tragedy, Dark Tide uses the drama of the flood to examine the sweeping changes brought about by World War I, Prohibition, the Anarchist movement, the Red Scare, immigration, and the role of big business in society.
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Stephen Puleo is author of the critically acclaimed Boston-area bestseller Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. A former award-winning newspaper reporter and contributor to American History magazine, he holds a master's degree in history and wrote his thesis on Italian immigration and the settlement of Boston's North End. He donates a portion of his book proceeds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the leading charitable funder and advocate of juvenile (Type 1) diabetes research. Stephen and his wife, Kate, live in the Boston area.Review:
"Getting into the minds of the major players in the disaster- USIA suits, victims, witnesses, North End residents, politicians- [Puleo] recreates not only the scene but also the social, political and economic environments of the time that made the disaster more than just an industrial accident... More interesting are the tidbits of Boston's and America's history, such as the importance of molasses to all U.S. war efforts up to and including WWI, which Puleo uses to put the tank collapse in the context of a very complex time in U.S. history. The most striking aspect of this tale is the timeliness of the topics it touches on. Describing Americans being persecuted because of their ethnicity, a sagging economy boosted by the war, and terrorism on U.S. soil that results in anti-immigration laws and deportations, Puleo could just as easily be writing about current events as about events in 1919. Overall, this is another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is Boston's long and rich history." Publishers Weekly
The great molasses disaster of 1919 in Boston’s North End provided a dramatic prelude to a new era in post-World War I America. Stephen Puleo brings it to life with vivid prose, using the dreadful catastrophe as a lens through which to view the panorama of a changing Boston, as well as to survey the major events that would shape the future of twentieth-century America. This is a must-read for anyone interested in Boston history.” --Thomas H. O’Connor, author of The Hub: Boston Past and Present
Why has no one ever told this story before? The Boston molasses flood lives dimly in popular memory, but no historian has explored it fully until now. The results of Stephen Puleo’s labors combine exhaustive research, shrewd analysis, careful placement in local and national context, and an ability to tell a good tale everything you want in a work of history.” --James O’Toole, author Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920
’Dark Tide’ is written in a compelling narrative style, and Puleo, as it turns out, is a more than competent storyteller what matters most here is that in Dark Tide,’ Puleo has done justice to a gripping historical story, no matter what the disaster's place in history” Boston Globe
"Were Italian anarchists to blame or was it negligence by the tank's owner, the United States Industrial Alcohol company? Such matters form the crux of Puleo's account, which is narrated with gusto ...his enthusiasm for a little-known catastrophe is infectious" The New Yorker
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