The image of the Pony Express is very strong in the American consciousness. Here’s what we “remember” -- a rider galloping as fast as the wind through the wild west, ignoring the elements, dodging hostile Native Americans, and delivering the mail. But that image owes more to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show and Hollywood movies than to the history of the actual Pony Express. According to the US Department of the Interior, “Few events in U.S. western history have generated more myths and half truths than the Pony Express.” Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
It’s a story that drives tour guides and historians of engineering crazy. A worker falls into a pool of wet concrete that’s being poured as part of a major construction project. Before he can be saved, his body slips beneath the surface and he drowns in the thick soup of the concrete. It’s too difficult to extract the body and the construction bosses don’t want to stop the “concrete pour,” so he gets entombed in the concrete pillars of the bridge, or the concrete walls of the dam, or whatever it is they’re building. Were bosses that cold? Was the march of progress so heartless? Find out, Buzzkillers.
The great influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 was the one of the worst disasters in human history. Somewhere between 50 and 100 million people were killed by the flu world-wide. But did it start in Spain? Was the Spanish health-care system to blame. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular saints in the Christian religion. He’s known as a lover of animals, the first eco-warrior, and a peace-negotiator during the crusades. How much of this is true, and how much is myth? “Make me the instrument of your buzzkilling!”
Was the Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach, rotten to the core? He is often referred to as one of greatest baseball players of all time. But was his professional greatness mirrored by personal reprehensibility? As is so often the case, his soiled reputation was mostly the product of a bad biography and reporters repeating old rumors. Play ball, Buzzkillers, and don’t forget to sharpen your spikes!
George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Where did they come from? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers.
The 1937 Hindenburg disaster was one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. And it certainly was dramatically reported. But what if the report we're used to hearing was partly the result of a mechanical error in the recording equipment? What if the emotion that comes through in the "oh the humanity" quote was inadvertently enhanced through this error? Would the disaster "sound" different to us if we heard the genuine report?
For decades, a story flew around that Coke was originally full of coke, as in cocaine. The early developers of Coca-Cola stirred cocaine into its famous syrup, so the legend goes. Once mixed with energizing carbonated water, early Coca-Cola became irresistible, and customers became addicted. That’s how Coke dominated the soft drink market. Is this a myth? Is it a half-myth? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Did women’s rights protesters go so far as to burn their bras in public in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the same way that anti-war protesters burned their draft cards? Well, no, Buzzkillers. They did throw them in “freedom trash cans,” along with girdles, high-heeled shoes, and cosmetics. Not as dramatic as burning them, but a whole more sensible, from a public safety point of view, wouldn’t you say?
This episode looks at the dramatic combination of advancing industrialization, and the dirty business of coal mining both from the miners’ side and from the operators’ side. Specifically we’re going to talk about what happened when poor industrial relations, bigoted immigrant relations, and distrust between workers and bosses ignited violence, murder, undercover police work, and crime and punishment in the late 19th century coal fields of industrial America. In short, the Molly Maguires!
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Everyone loves the cowboy hat. Even if you don’t wear one, you want to see your cowboy movie heroes wearing one. Anything else would be un-American, right? Wrong. The classic, iconic cowboy hat design didn’t appear until 1865 and didn’t become popular until the end of the 19th century.
The U.S. Treasury has finally taken our advice, Buzzkillers! Harriet Tubman will be the new image on the $20 bill. It took a lot of work on our part to convince the old fuddy-duddies at Treasury to make the change, but it was worth it. You’re welcome, America. The Professor is now emboldened to make more quality suggestions for new portraits on the currency. As usual, he’s completely right, and it’s only a matter of time before the government submits to his superior thinking.
Queen Victoria Not Amused? There is no good evidence for the quote “we are not amused” being uttered by Queen Victoria. The original story is dubious, Buzzkillers. Find out why.
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Hey you Buzzkillers and backfillers, you listeners and glisteners! Did you think The Sarah was the first whackadoodle presidential candidate? Distinguished historians join me to discuss "fringe" candidates from the glorious American past. Listen in and cast your vote!
Is there any truth to the story that the saying, “my name is/will be mud,” or “your name is/will be mud,” refers to the stain on Dr. Samuel Mudd’s reputation based on his relationship with John Wilkes Booth in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865? Find out, #Buzzkillers!
General George Patton was one of the most famous, colorful, and talked about US generals in World War II. He is also among the most misunderstood military men in history. Famously played by George C. Scott in a 1970 movie, Patton’s image is one of the most enduring in 20th century American history. He is frequently referred to as one of America’s great generals, and just as frequently referred to as one of the most arrogant, out-of-control, and over-rated.
It’s an American election year, Buzzkillers, and we can absolutely count on misquotes and other abuses of history. Join us on this Pre-Dawn Raid as we expose Sarah Palin’s mis-use of General George Patton during this year’s election. It’s a doozy!
Was a junk food diet really used as a defense in a murder case? Did the Twinkie do it? Alas, Buzzkillers, the answer is no, but the story about this myth is fascinating. Sit back, unwrap one of your favorite snacks, listen and learn!
Prof. Phil Nash joins us once again to bust US history myths. This time it’s about President Woodrow Wilson. How much of a progressive was he? What were his real attitudes towards race? How much idealism did he pump into his policies on foreign affairs? How effective was he in ending World War I and negotiating things at Versailles? And, finally, did his wife really take over after his stroke in late 1919.
Gregor Rasputin (1869-1916) is one of the most fascinating people in modern history. Who was he? Religious visionary? Mystic healer? Charlatan? Spiritual con man? Political snake? All of the above? The story that it took being drugged, poisoned, shot, beaten, and drowned for him to die is a myth, Buzzkillers. But the broader story is fascinating. Listen and learn.
“Quotations” from Chief Seattle (c.1786-1866), particularly those that have ecological tone, appear on posters, photographs, monuments. These “quotes” are used almost everywhere that people want to express the idea that Native Americans had natural wisdom about the land and that the tragedy is that it was taken away from them. But what did Chief Seattle actually say? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Everyone was killed at the Alamo. Right, Buzzkillers? That’s why “Remember the Alamo” is such a famous rallying cry in American history. But was everyone killed inside the Alamo? Civilians? Women and children? Was Santa Anna essentially a murderer? Find out, Buzzkillers, by listening to our latest MiniMyth!
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“Amazing Grace” is one of the most popular songs in Christian songbooks, and one of the most recognizable songs in the world. By one account, it is sung over 10 million times annually. It’s has also been the font of historical myths and misunderstandings. One particularly dramatic one, and one that has been flying around the internet for over a decade, is that the author John Newton had a Christian conversion after surviving a devastating storm that almost wrecked his ship. True story? Afraid not.
What can possibly be wrong with St. Patrick’s Day? Not much, except that there’s very little historical basis behind stories about St. Patrick. And there’s certainly no historical basis for excess drinking, green beer, and the Chicago River turned green. Or is there? The Professor becomes more open minded right before our very ears!
The Honor Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier seem superhuman. Their ceremonial duties are handled with the ultimate in precision and professionalism. But are the email stories about them having to live like military monks for the rest of their lives true? We interview First Sergeant Dennis McMahon from the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to get the lowdown, Buzzkillers!
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