A Gripping Tale
Posted on May 17, 2011
Faculty and Staff
Parents and Visitors
Author-historian Stephen Puleo
visited Bridgewater State to deliver a lively talk about his book Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
. His appearance was part of the One Book, One Community program.
Mr. Puleo is not only an author and historian, but also a university teacher, public speaker and communications professional. His book tells the story - for the first time in print - the facts behind a tragic event in Boston's history.
"This story touches almost every major issue in American life of the early 20th century," he said.
Indeed, the story of the molasses "flood" gets tangled up with World War I munitions production, the anarchist movement of the day, migration issues and government regulatory practices.
"Shortly after noon on January 15, 1919, a 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses collapsed on Boston's waterfront, disgorging its contents in a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that traveled at 35 miles per hour," wrote Mr. Puleo. "The Great Boston Molasses Flood claimed the lives of 21 people and caused widespread destruction. The story of the flood is told in full historical context from the tank's construction in 1915 through the multiyear lawsuit that followed the disaster."
In his talk, he summarized the story of the flood, from the construction of the ill-fated tank, to the devestation of its collapse, and through the three-year lawsuit that followed. Afterward, he engaged the audience with an informative question-and-answer session.
Mr. Puleo is also the author of A City So Grand
, The Boston Italians
and Due to Enemy Action
. Among those crowded into the Horace Mann Auditorium of Boyden Hall for the talk was Mr. Puleo's niece, Rachel Brevich
, '11, a history major from Boston. She is now assisting Mr. Puleo in researching his next book. Susan McCombe
, director of university and community partnerships, who helped found the One Book, One Community program, said, "Mr. Puleo's book uses the gripping drama of the flood to examine the sweeping changes brought about by World War I: Prohibition, the anarchist movement with a Bridgewater connection, immigration and the expanding role of big business in society. It's also a chronicle of the courage of ordinary people, from the firemen caught in an unimaginable catastrophe to the soldier-lawyer who presided over the lawsuit with heroic impartiality."
At the conclusion of the program, Ms. McCombe presented Mr. Puleo with a BSU blanket and thanked him "for a riveting presentation on his very impressive research and writing." (Story and photo by David K. Wilson, '71, Office of Institutional Communications)