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.
The poem that begins “First they came for the socialists, and I did not not speak out --- because I was not a socialist,” goes through a series of other oppressed, but ignored, groups, and ends with, “and then they came for me --- and there was no one left to speak for me,” is one of the most touching and thought-provoking expressions of human and communal responsibility of the 20th Century. It was, of course, said by Pastor Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran, after the World War II and the Holocaust. But the history of that poem is just as heart-rending, and prompts just as much self-reflection about political and social responsibility as anything that came out of that horrific period. Please listen.
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot... Children's rhymes make poor history. So do modern day movies, like V for Vendetta. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators weren't radicals fighting for the working people. So why do we all wear that mask?
One of the things that makes the recent hate crimes in the United States so shocking and outrageous is that they seem to go against the grain of American life. They’re out of character, and un-American. But, as one of my fellow historians said recently, “The citizen in me hates what is happening in America now. The historian in me knows that this has always happened in America.” Today, I’ll say a few very general things about the history of hate crimes in the US. And then we’ll play the show we previously did on the KKK. It addresses many of the underlying issues of hate and bigotry that seem to be continually with us in the United States.
In the wake of over a dozen football-related deaths in 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt rode in in, and threatened football leaders that if they didn’t make the game safer, he’d ban it. They implemented reforms, and Rough Rider Teddy gets the credit for saving American football from itself. But is that what happened, or is it far more complicated and historically interesting than that? We explore how the American style of football started and developed, why it was so violent, and why it was reformed in the early 20th century. Listen and learn!
Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban legend. Get the full story from the Buzzkill Institute.
It’s a Woman Crush Wednesday! Maria Bochkareva’s life reflects almost all of the tumultuous period of the Russian Revolution (1917-1922). During World War I, she fights, and eventually leads, the “1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death.” She then connects with the White forces in the Russian Civil War, does diplomatic work for them in the US and Britain, and returns to Russia to fight in 1918. Listen and learn what eventually happened to her!
The tragic story of the ship "Marie Celeste" has been told for over a hundred years. And the tale gets wilder and wilder every time. On December 5, 1872, the vessel was found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,400 miles west of Portugal. The crew and passengers were gone, but the ship was in near perfect condition, with all her lifeboats intact, and all the supplies, clothing, and provisions for her occupants intact. It was as if the people had evaporated. What happened? Find out, and also learn what the "Marie Celeste" tells us about how historical myths and misconceptions start and spread!
Richard Nixon was already known as “Tricky Dick” long before the Presidential Election of 1968. But would he do anything so tricky as to negotiate with a foreign country against American interests in order to get elected? Professor Nash comes to the Buzzkill Bunker to explain all the shenanigans of the 1968 election, and whether the Nixon and his team crafted an October Surprise to win in November. This story is full of intrigue, drama, and dread. Listen in!
President Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats" are famous for breaking new ground in how political leaders communicate with their people. But were they really as ground-breaking as we all tend to believe? Did they really help the American people get through the Great Depression and World War II? Was it FDR's tone and confidence that connected to the people, or was there something more mundane that explains the popularity of the Fireside Chats? Professor Phil Nash enlightens us!
Benjamin Lay was one of the most famous anti-slavery protestors in colonial Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He agitated against slavery and the slave trade in very unusual ways, and was eventually kicked out of his church, the Quakers, for his actions. He was also one of the pioneers of political boycotting of certain consumer goods. Listen to the story of one of the most interesting men of the early 18th century, and learn why he deserves more attention from historians!
The history of immigration to the United States is very complicated, Buzzkillers! Millions of people came from all over the world to the United States, and there are almost as many myths about immigration as there were immigrants. What did it mean to come to the United States "legally" during the high points of the history of immigration to the United States? When did the government try to restrict immigration and how did they do that? Listen to this Buzzkill favorite to find out!
1968 was a dramatic, upsetting, and confusing year in many parts of the world. The American Presidential Election was equally strange and unusual. Protests, riots, assassinations, major political parties in turmoil, and a segregationist third party candidate. All in the shadow of the Vietnam War. No election before or since has been so tumultuous. How did the country survive. Professor Phil Nash explains it all in this episode!
"Molly Pitcher" was the legendary water carrier who kept American soldiers hydrated and poured cool water on cannon barrels during the crucial Battle of Monmouth in 1778. But was she a real person? If so, who was she? As you'll find out, Buzzkillers, she was more a product of the American Revolutionary Centennial celebrations in 1876 than the Revolutionary War itself.
Did Gandhi say, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”? If he didn’t, where did it come from? The Bible? The Canadian House of Commons? Movie script writers? And is there something more significant in how this phrase has come down to us as an essential Gandhi-ism? Listen and learn with your eyes open, Buzzkillers!
Did Richard Nixon genuinely "concede" the 1960 Presidential Election to John Kennedy the day after the election, as so many commentators now tell us? Or did he qualify his remarks so much, and work so feverishly behind the scenes to overturn the election, that he should be considered a "sore loser"? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers!
20th century automobile travel was supposed to represent freedom, but what else did it represent? Professor Cotten Seiler from Dickinson College joins us to discuss the difficulties and hazards of traveling in the United States faced by African-American motorists in the 20th Century, especially during the height of segregation and Jim Crow. Specifically, we learn how important guides like the Negro Motorist Green Book and the popular Travelguide: Vacation and Recreation Without Humiliation were to the reality of “travelling while black.”
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!
Ada Lovelace is frequently called “the first computer programmer,” but is her story more complicated than that? In this Woman Crush Wednesday show, we give a brief overview of what she contributed to the history of computing, and argue that she was more important than the “first computer programmer.” Find out how we give her more historical praise by listening now!
Enigma, the German World War II message encoding machine, was famously cracked by British codebreakers led by Alan Turing. But were there more people involved? Buzzkillers in Dayton, Ohio, will be very proud to hear that one of their native sons, Joseph Desch, was an Enigma hero. And Buzzkillers in Poland will welcome the fact that we're gonna remind everyone that Polish cryptanalysts were the first to crack Enigma.
Journalist Mary Pilon joins us to discuss the history of the game Monopoly and its wonderful twists, turns, complications, and lawsuits! It all starts during The Depression and doesn't stop until the 21st Century! Make sure to listen, and tell a playing partner about the show!!
A Viking horned helmet would have been very impractical, and perhaps dangerous, in battle, Buzzkillers. There is only one depiction of a horned helmet in ancient Nordic art, and it was probably ceremonial. Horned helmets are most likely the invention of legendary opera composer Wagner's costume designer in the 19th century.