“The reason? Boston’s Great Molasses Flood of 1919, one of the city’s most bizarre and deadly disasters.
Shortly after noon on January 15, 1919, as many Boston workers were taking their lunch break, a 2.5-million gallon tank of molasses on 529 Commercial St. ruptured, sending a “tidal wave of death and destruction stalking through the North End,” as The Boston Globe reported at the time.
According to varying estimates, the wave was 15 to 40 feet high, and moved at a speed of 35 miles per hour….
the massive molasses tank had been built by Purity Distilling Company to store the sticky substance to make rum. According to the Globe, the fermented molasses was also used in munitions production. At the time of the explosion the tank had recently been filled, something that had only happened four times before….
The great brown wave caught and killed most of the nearby laborers. The fireboat company quarters was splintered. A lorry was blasted right through a wooden fence, and a wagon driver was found later, dead and frozen in his last attitude like a figure from the ashes of Pompeii.”