In our last posting we shared some oddities, coincidences,

There is a sense of timelessness in Heliger Sand in Worms German photo copyright Jim Hinckley

and curiosities associated with deaths and funerals unlike anything that Arizona Affordable Funeral Home & Crematory has ever had to deal with. Now, for part two; odd man made disasters.

On the afternoon of January 15, 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Purity Distilling Company located at 529 Commercial Street, a storage tank measuring 50-ft tall and 90-ft in diameter collapsed without warning. Rivets shot from the collapsing tank like machine gun fire, according to one witness. The tank contained 2,300,000-gallons of molasses.

Initially the wave of molasses was estimated to be 25-ft in height. Moving at more than 30-miles per hour the tsunami of molasses was a destructive force. A railroad car fell from the tracks of the Boston Elevated Railway as the wave moved and bent supporting girders. Author Stephen Puleo was an eyewitness to the devastation and later wrote of buildings being swept from their foundations. As the molasses swept through the streets, several blocks were inundated with more than three feet of molasses. 

A report in the Boston Post noted that, “Molasses, waist deep covered the street and swirled and bubbled about the wreckage. Here and there struggled a form – whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell. Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was. Horses died like so many flies on sticky flypaper. The more they struggled, the deeper in the mess they were ensnared. Human beings – men and women – suffered likewise.”

More than 150 people suffered injuries ranging from minor to broken bones, concussions, and crushed chests. An unknown number of horses died, as did 21 people. Rescuers struggled in the gooey mass as hey searched for survivors. Doctors and coroners noted that many of the dead were so covered in molasses, identification was almost an impossibility.

And you thought that the air in the Los Angeles metropolitan area was bad. The fogs of London, England figured prominently in stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and other authors of the Victorian era. The fogs, often a yellowish pea soup color, were often the result of air inversions, industrial pollution, and coal smoke. During the late fall of 1952, the city was the scene of an environmental disaster of epic proportions. It was a perfect storm; coal fired furnace and industrial factory smoke, fog, and an air inversion that developed with the onset of a cold front. For four days it was difficult to tell daylight from dark. Most of the cattle at the world famous Smithfield Market died. Numbers for the human dearth toll vary widely depending on the source as some consider only immediate deaths, while others evaluate long term deaths that resulted from the onset of respiratory issues such as bronchial asthma and pneumonia. A conservative tabulation placed the death toll at 8,000 people.

This article was written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America


%d bloggers like this: