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Dark Tide Book Review

Updated on November 11, 2017


Author: Stephen Puleo

Published: 2003

Publisher: Beacon Pess

Pages 273 (paperback)

On 15th January 1919, at around noon, one of the greatest disasters to strike Boston, USA occurred. In the north end of Boston stood a tank 50 ft tall and 90 ft wide. Contained in this tank was molasses, which was full to the brim. In fact, it contained 2.3 million gallons of it. But what happened was so shocking and tragic that it led to one of the longest court cases ever. On this day, the tank exploded causing the molasses to spill over into the streets of Boston. The result of this was that 21 people died and 150 were injured. It left Boston looking like a war zone as buildings were demolished and a massive clean up operation ensued. The result of this left a lot of questions to be answered, as you shall find out in this book.

Stephen Puleo is a former newspaper reporter and also a contributor to the American History magazine.

Part 1: A Monster in Our Midst
Part 2: Waves of Terror
Part 3: David Vs Goliath
Deadline on the Waterfront
"One of the Worst Catastrophes"
Neighborhood Weeping
Factor of Safety
Along the Gulf Stream
"I Am Prepared to Meet my God"
"A Sordid Story"
War and Anarchy
Darkening Skies
Heavy Load

About the book

Dark Tide is split into 3 parts. The first part really sets the scene and tells about the construction of the molasses tank. Not only that, but the author describes in detail what America and, more importantly, what Boston was like in 1919. With WW! not long over, he describes in great detail the unrest that was bestowing America at the time. There were a lot of Italian immigrants living in Boston at the time. And also with a lot of anarchists and bombings going off around Boston at the time, he describes the run up to the disaster so the reader gets an idea of what was going on.

The prologue to the book is particularly interesting to read as it gives an account of Isaac Gonzales who, by all accounts, was worried sick about the tank. So much so, he would get up in the middle of the night just to go check on it. With the tank holding 2.3 million gallons of the thick molasses, he witnessed it slowly seeping and leaking from the seams of the tank. He was adamant it would, one day, collapse. When he approached his boss, Mr White and Mr White's boss, Arthur Jell, they just told him he was over-reacting. Perhaps they should have listened to him in the first place.

The book doesn't really tell you about the disaster until part 2. I found part one interesting and helpful. It lays the foundation of what America was like at the time and what was going on in Boston and in USA itself. Not only that though, Stephen goes into great detail about the company that ran the molasses tank and the construction of it. As I say, part 2 is about how the tank collapsed and the aftermath. Stephen Puleo goes into great detail about how the tank collapsed and how it affected the Bostonians. The tank was erected in quite a built up area of Boston and houses were, quite literally, flattened like matchsticks. As the molasses flowed through the streets of Boston it drowned, trapped and killed people. Some people died a few days, and even a few months after the disaster. And after the initial flood, the clean up began. As you read the book, Stephen hones in on certain people and families and how their lives completely changed forever due to this.

Part 3, aptly named David Vs Goliath, is based around the lengthy court case that ensued. This was by far one of the most bizarre cases to hit America and this comes through in the court hearing. The book goes into great detail about the many witnesses they interviewed. This includes employees of the company, people who lost family members, and professionals in the steel industry. This part of the book was interesting to read, and as a reader, I got a vivid insight into what went on. There are also small transcripts of the conversations that went on in court.


My thoughts

I found this book really interesting to read. It was a part of history I never knew about. There is a small section of the book with photographs in, so you get an idea of the scale of the tank and the destruction it caused on people in Boston. I like how it's split into 3 parts. This made the whole story easy to read. And I like how Part 1 explores the social history of America and what was happening in Boston at the time. This leads on nicely to the flood itself and the subsequent court trial. And at the end of the book you get a small summary of what became of some of the people named in the book, and also a list of the 21 people that died in this terrible disaster. This is certainly an interesting book for anyone interested in history and, in particular, American history. I've added a video about the flood, which is not anyway related to the book, but I found it interesting to watch nonetheless.

A video about the Molasses Flood.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 book.

© 2017 Louise Powles


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    • Rhyme Vine Poetry profile image

      Tamara Yancosky Moore 6 weeks ago from Uninhabited Regions

      Such a very sad tragedy. Your book review is excellent, and very clear. Thank you for sharing!



    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a bizarre and tragic incident. Thanks for the book review. I'd like to read about this event.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      I’ve heard of this disaster referenced but would love to read this book to learn more. Many of the early industrial disasters laid the groundwork for our occupational safety and health laws now. We take such modern protections for granted (or worse, consider them a nuisance). However, people like the victims of this disaster died or were maimed and it was sadly preventable.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 2 months ago from Texas

      Louise, I will look for the book, I had not heard about this and find it fascinating. Yes I love history.

      Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

      Blessings my friend.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 2 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      So, what were the social conditions in Boston at the time?

      What caused the tank to collapse?

      What was the outcome of the court case?

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I know what you mean though. When I first heard about it, it made me laugh too! You wouldn't think anything like this could happen, do you? Thankyou for reading, I'm glad you found it interesting.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 2 months ago from Ohio

      This book does sound very interesting. It is nice that he tells what happened to some of the people at the end. I have never heard of this disaster. At first I laughed to read the title, but I felt bad for that laugh reading this. It sounds like a book I would enjoy greatly.