Since we’re already talking syrup and molasses I should note that today is the 96th anniversary of the Great Boston Molasses Disaster, which happened on January 15, 1919. On that fateful day a two-and-a-half million gallon tank of molasses located at the Purity Distilling Company in the North End of Boston burst, sending a 25-foot wave of sticky death hurtling down Commercial Street at some 35 miles per hour. How molasses could reach that speed (and viscosity) in the middle of a January day I don’t know. But then it was a hell of a lot of molasses. The wave demolished buildings, train tracks and conveyances, killed 21 people and injured 159.
How it all happened is still something of a mystery. Though most experts at the time were convinced that the collapse was a result of shoddy workmanship and an over-filled tank, the company pinned the blame on anarchists. Cleanup crews spent weeks wading through knee-deep goo, using firehoses to wash the molasses into Boston Harbor, which remained brown until May. Streets and sidewalks were blackened for blocks around as workmen tracked the molasses along streets and sidewalks and onto train and subway platforms. It was said that every sidewalk bench and telephone handset in the city was sticky for a month.
Some Bostonians claim that on a hot summer day you can still smell it.