22 photos of the total destruction caused by the Great Molasses Flood

The 1919 North End disaster killed 21 people and injured roughly 150 others.

The photos may be black and white, but the destruction wrought by Boston’s Great Molasses Flood in 1919 doesn’t appear any less dramatic due to the lack of color.

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Not long after the massive tank of molasses ruptured in the North End on Jan. 15, killing 21 people and injuring roughly 150 others, photographers were at the scene, capturing crumpled buildings and workers cleaning the sticky, smelly mess.

Here are some scenes from the day of the flood and afterward, taken from The Boston Globe‘s archives and Boston City Archives:

The Boston Globe archives

Police, firemen, Red Cross workers, civilian volunteers, and cadets from the USS Nantucket training ship berthed nearby rushed to the scene on Jan. 15, 1919.


Part of the tank smashed into the walls of the freight house of the Bay State Street Railway Co. with enough force to tear the structure apart, seen here on Jan. 20, 1919.

Smashed vehicles and debris sit in a puddle of molasses on Commercial Street on Jan. 16, 1919.

Wreckage under the elevated rail line where many express trucks parked.

Looking across North End Park on Jan. 16, 1919.

Rubble was all that was left of a fire station on Jan. 16, 1919.


Welders carefully began cutting up the molasses tank with torches in the search for bodies on Jan. 20, 1919.

A section of the tank.

Boston City Archives

The aftermath of the molasses disaster.

This photo is probably from January, according to Boston City Archives, and shows workers using saltwater to help clean the molasses.

Damage caused by the molasses disaster.

Damage from the molasses disaster.


Damage caused by the molasses tank eruption.

Damage from the molasses tank disaster.

Aftermath of the molasses tank disaster.

This photo is probably from Jan. 15, 1919, according to Boston City Archives, the day the molasses disaster took place.

Damage from the molasses tank disaster.

This is what the area where the molasses disaster happened looks like today, taken in 2014.