Because I've been on an early 20th century bender with my grandma's postcard collection, my old home town, and World War I cookbooks, this World War I era industrial accident seems like the next logical installment to my reading: Molasses, Waist Deep.
Ninety years ago today, a 50-foot tall vat of molasses collapsed suddenly in the North End of Boston, sending a 15-foot tidal wave of syrup into the streets....In the end 21 people lost their lives, crushed or asphyxiated by the most common form of sweetener in the United States at the time. Most were ordinary laborers. Several of the bodies were too battered and glazed to be properly identified. Nearly 200 other Bostonians were injured in the catastrophe. Of the 20 horses that perished in the molasses wave, several had to be shot because they could not be extracted from the goo.
United States Industrial Alcohol, the company that owned the faulty vat, tried to blame the accident on anarchist saboteurs, an accusation that would have been plausible if the tank had not been famously defective to those who lived and worked in its vicinity. Though it was less than four years old when it gave way, the vat had been hastily assembled in 1915 to facilitate the production of industrial alcohol. With the United States escalating it munitions shipments to Britain, Canada and France, USIA and its Boston subsidiary, the Purity Distilling Company, stood to gather enormous profits so long as the war endured; facing competition from major weapons manufacturers like du Pont, Aetna and Hercules, however, USIA needed a tank of its own in Boston, and the ill-fated Commercial Street project was the result.
So that's why Frances Lowe Smith had to find substitutes for sugar and molasses.