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.
Becoming a citizen by being born in a country is an topic that flares up whenever there are controversies about immigration and immigrants. This episode explains birthright citizenship and how it developed in the United States and the western hemisphere. And, of course, it explains the complicated history of the tradition, especially how it was applied to Native Americans and freed slaves. It wasn’t as simple as you might have thought. Listen and learn!
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!”
After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, British America stretched from Hudson Bay to the Florida Keys, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and across new islands in the West Indies. To better rule these vast dominions, Britain set out to map its new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. Max Edelson’s The New Map of Empire pictures the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions in the generation before the American Revolution. Listen and learn!
Is Watergate the story of heroic journalists working against all odds and in great danger to get at the truth of presidential corruption? Is it more complicated than that? How accurate was All the President's Men? Who really brought the Nixon presidency down? Professor Buzzkill's new episode explains all!
Listen to the FIRST Man Crush Monday episode (encore performance of episode #233):
Professor Phil Nash joins us on our very first Man Crush Monday to tell us about the most important American Civil Rights leader that most people haven't heard of -- A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, and founder of the idea for a march on Washington. Randolph started his national career by organizing the first major African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. His pressured FDR to ban discrimination in defense industries in 1941, and Truman to end segregation in the armed forces in 1948. Perhaps most importantly, his plan for a March on Washington in 1941 set the precedent for the eventual 1963 March on Washington. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers.
Flashback Friday Episode!
From 1876, when the first effective dynamo/generator that produced a steady current of electricity was invented, Americans reacted to this new phenomenon of electricity in many different ways. Professor Jennifer Lieberman is one of the first academics to study that reaction, especially how it appeared in popular literature, both fiction and non-fiction. And in doing so, she raises a lot of very important questions about our relationships with technology and the natural world. We interview her about the cultural reactions to electricity as a new technology is the topic of this episode. Listen and be electrified!
Professor Sarah Milov explains the political and medical environments in which the 1964 US Surgeon General’s Report on dangers of smoking appeared in 1964. In addition to the medical and scientific concerns in producing the report, there were significant non-medical concerns and obstacles to overcome. One of the most significant of these was the political ways in which the Report was treated, both inside and outside the government. Listen and learn!
Should old acquaintance be forgot? What? Should we forget old friends? Should we sing about remembering them. What does Auld Lang Syne actually mean? Why do we sing it every New Year’s Eve? Join the Professor as he waxes lyrical and sentimentally about Auld Lang Syne, Scotland, and good auld Robert Burns!
How did New Year’s Day end up in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere (and the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere)? Wouldn’t a day in spring be more fitting? Find out how people celebrated New Years in past centuries and why things turned out the way they did.
Did George Washington have a vision one evening at Valley Forge? Did an angel descend and tell General George about the future of the country, and give him the emotional stamina to carry on and win the Revolutionary War? Or is this Revolutionary-era story really a product of the 1860s? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Was there special, secret meaning behind the lyrics in the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas? Ten Lords a Leaping and Nine Ladies Dancing sounds like a pretty good party! But why wasn't Professor Buzzkill invited? We explain it all and wish all you Buzzkillers out there a happy holiday season!
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come and sit here by me,” is one of the best snarky-isms ever uttered. But who said it? Dorothy Parker? Joan Crawford? Lady Buzzkill? Hear the full story and learn what in the world Teddy Roosevelt, Nellie Taft, and Thomas Dewey have to do with it all? Listen and learn!
The truce between the trenches in Christmas 1914 is one of the most famous stories from World War I. Was it one big truce across the whole Western Front? Or was it lots of little ceasefires? How did it happen, and what did the soldiers do during the Christmas Truce? Did they become friends for a day? Did they play football? Did they exchange cigarettes and pose for pictures? Professor Theresa Blom Crocker explains all!
Professor Brian Balogh from the University of Virginia enlightens us about how historians have studied the US Presidency since the 1950s. It’s certainly had its ups and downs, and many historians abandoned the study of the presidency during the 1970s. Rather than just track the fall and rise of presidential history, Professor Balogh explains that the widening of historical fields will “bring the presidency back in” to mainstream historical study. Listen and learn!
Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain the myths and misconceptions about the December 7th, 1941, as well as the complexities of the cultural importance of the attack since then. Did FDR know about the attack ahead of time? And who was the attack more devastating for - the United States or Japan? You’ll learn more about an event that you thought you already knew well by listening to us!
Madame C.J. Walker was a pioneer in the hair care industry, and in broad-based national marketing during the height of Jim Crow in the United States. As an African-American woman, she faced obstacles every time she tried to improve her business. Nevertheless, she went on to become one of the wealthiest women in America. Listen to Professor Corye Beene explain it all!
President Lincoln comforted Lydia Bixby over the loss of her five sons during the Civil War in one of the most famous letters in American history. But what really happened to Mrs. Bixby's five sons? Did they all die fighting for the Union? Or were things a lot more complicated than that? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Professor Andrew Huebner joins us to discuss his fascinating new examination of the what World War I meant for Americans. Was it to “make the world safe for democracy” or was it for home and family. Find out!
As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That's how Americans got popcorn, right Buzzkillers? Well, maybe not. But you'll have to listen to find out!
The Pilgrims and Indians sat down on the fourth Thursday of November in 16-something and started the first Thanksgiving dinner, right? You guessed it. Wrong! It took almost 300 years to get to Norman Rockwell's painting and the Macy's Parade. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
William Henry Johnson eventually became one of the most decorated soldiers in World War I. His medals and military decorations came only eventually, however. He acted bravely and heroically in the Argonne Forest in May, 1918, killing multiple German soldiers and saving an American comrade, all the while being heavily wounded himself. The French military awards him the Croix de Guerre, their highest honor. Johnson’s heroism was not recognized by the American military and American government until much later. Find out how much later, and why there was such a delay, listen to this Man Crush Monday episode!
One of the legendary stories that re-appear during Thanksgiving season is that no less a luminary and Founding Father than Ben Franklin thought that the bald eagle was an improper choice as a national bird and a national symbol. Franklin preferred the more "dignified" turkey and tried to convince the Founding Fathers to agree. Apparently, they thought Ben was a senile old sentimentalist, and so they ignored him. But is any of this story true? Listen and find out!
Did World War I end with a bang or a whimper? Prof Phil Nash joins us to discuss the complicated road to the armistice of November 11, 1918. A dozen countries were involved, the Russian Revolution intervened, and the US military provided fresh troops for the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia. And the German alliance gradually fell apart. But there’s so much more than that! Listen and learn.
Everybody knows that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, but how did he do it? Did he really paint the entire ceiling from atop a scaffold while reclining on his back? Well, not really. In some cases, the truth is even more amazing than the myth, and this is one of those cases, Buzzkillers. Not only did Michelangelo paint one of the most famous masterpieces in the history of art, he did so under great duress. Listen to find out why the painting of the Sistine Chapel is even more awesome than you thought.