Young Readers League 2019 “Hidden History” Writing Contest

Honorable Mention

(Category 2: ages 12-14)


“The Great Molasses Flood”

by Sierra Ng

Age 12


Summary:  Josie learns about the Great Molasses Flood.


Not many people know about the Great Molasses Flood in Boston. Josie didn’t. But when Josie found that diary in the attic, she knew that she had to read about it.


January 15, 1920

Dear Diary,

It’s been exactly one year since the molasses flood.

The United States Industrial Alcohol Company (USIA) wanted to use molasses for a bomb. It was put in a tank in our neighborhood of North End. Last January, it exploded. I saw everything from the window at school. Though we live far from the tank and our house wasn’t damaged, you could still see it from our house, a three-story-high eyesore that blocked the sun. The tank cracked apart like an egg, releasing a huge wave of 2.7 million gallons of molasses. Metal from the tank shot through the air like bullets and missiles. I couldn’t watch. When I looked back, everything was drowned in molasses. It was sickening.

It took only seconds for the molasses to crush several buildings. 21 people died; 150 were injured. Uncle Kevin was among the dead. The molasses swallowed him immediately. Boston Harbor was stained caramel-brown for weeks. I scrubbed molasses off sidewalks and streets everyday for months.

USIA said a bomb caused the accident, but the police heard about how the tank was leaking for years and echoed strange noises. They said the tank was built badly and USIA’s workers repeatedly warned their bosses about the dangers of the tank, but were ignored. Now, many people in North End, including Papa, have hired lawyers and are part of the movement demanding justice.



Josie researched the Great Molasses Flood. She found that the only commemoration to the disaster is a small plaque in Boston’s North End. In many ways, the Great Molasses Flood is hidden history.


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