BackStory

The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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Consumer In Chief

    Americans have such a unique lifestyle, we’ve given it a name: The American Way. The concept is deeply embedded in our collective identity. We bristle when others attack it and we lament its potential disappearance. Even our military swears to protect the American way of life.  The American lifestyle is frequently criticized by […]

BackStory’s Top 5 Trials of the Century

  In preparation for our episode on “Trial-Watching,” we asked the Guys, BackStory producers, and some of our other favorite historians to choose a trial that defined the century that they study. Here are their top picks for trials that influenced the American public, media, and courts in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The […]

Murder Was The Case

  A beautiful young woman is seen frequently in the company of a young man who lives in her building. According to her neighbors, the sounds coming from her room also indicate a sexual relationship between the two. She tells her family and friends that they plan to marry. On a December night, the same […]

A Good Fellow

In 1901, on a January afternoon, New York City undertakers buried the body of Murray Hall, a fixture in local politics. One bookseller who knew Hall described him as “distinctively masculine,” if somewhat effeminate. Others remembered Hall as a man who liked cigars, poker, and good-looking women. But Hall was buried in women’s clothing. Born […]

Lottery Fever

  The largest jackpot in PowerBall history got a lot larger when no one selected the winning numbers again on Saturday night, and the nation’s lottery fever continues. The jackpot now stands at an estimated $1.3B, and as Americans gear up for the next round on Wednesday, it’s hard not to wonder how this all […]

San Francisco vs. John Muir

In 1906, an enormous earthquake rocked San Francisco. Much of the city was reduced to rubble. But the rebuilding effort that followed offered city officials the opportunity to realize a long-time goal– a new and expanded water supply. For years, city officials had been wanting to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley 167 miles away in […]

The Nose Knows

As the old adage goes, never judge a book by its cover. But what about judging people…by the shape of their nose? That is precisely what “nasology” sought to accomplish. This 19th century pseudoscience proposed a link between an individual’s moral character and the physical contours of their nose. In other words, a nasologist could […]

With All Deliberate Speed

Today, the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education is remembered as a watershed moment in the Civil Rights movement, and the end of legal segregation in public schools. But that iconic decision was only the beginning of a new struggle to begin integrating schools across the South. Chief Justice Earl Warren’s order […]

The History of Ketchup

Editor’s note: Ever since we broadcast our show on America’s island history, which included an interview with Mr. Davison on the origins of Thousand Island dressing, we’ve had listener requests about what exactly went into 19th century ketchup, which was far more varied than our modern day Heinz and Hunts. Here is his reply, which […]

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