People in Boston still talk about January 15th of 1919, when a 50-foot-high storage tank filled with molasses erupted, sending two million gallons of the gooey liquid gushing onto city streets. Twenty-one people died, another 150 were injured, and the flooded area remained sticky and smelly for some time afterward. In the last few years, new scientific studies have been done to figure out how the disaster happened. The most popular theories include rapid changes in temperature, with a warm spell possibly causing the molasses to ferment, and metal walls of the tank being built too thin to hold so much liquid.
The Boston molasses disaster made page 2 of the La Crosse Tribune. The front page story was the rush to ratify the 18th Amendment, to legalize Prohibition. Between January 1st and the 17th, twenty-five states voted to approve the ban on liquor. The Wisconsin Senate okayed the amendment on January 15th, but there was resistance in the Assembly, frustrating people who wanted the Badger State to be one of the 36 needed to pass Prohibition. The Assembly finally ratified the amendment on the 17th, one day after Nebraska became state number 36 to approve the law.
President Woodrow Wilson was in Europe, attending the Paris Peace Conference to officially end World War I. Wilson would spend about six months in Paris, making him the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while still in office.
And movie theaters in La Crosse included the Majestic, the Bijou, and the Rex. They were showing Fatty Arbuckle comedies, along with Tarzan of the Apes, and one film called ‘Whose Little Wife Are You?’ One hundred years ago, 1919, yesterday in La Crosse.