Boston, today a city rich with world-class hospitals and medical schools, has a long history of medical innovation. This week, we take a look at the characters who laid the foundation for these advancements – Resurrection Men. What founding father was a member of a secret grave robbing club? What were the steps to pulling off the perfect heist? Tune in this week to find out!
Wonder Woman debuted in a December 1941 issue of All Star Comics, just as the attack on Pearl Harbor was drawing the US into World War II. In the comics, Wonder Woman’s origin story said that she was born to a race of Amazon women from Paradise Island, then disguised herself as the Boston career woman Diana Prince. In real life, Wonder Woman was inspired by early feminist fights for suffrage and access to contraception, and she was the brainchild of one very unique family who called Cambridge home. Wonder Woman drew as much inspiration from pinup girls in Esquire Magazine as she did from the suffragists who chained themselves to the gates of Harvard Yard and the founders of Planned Parenthood. And she was directly inspired by the women in her creator’s life. Her trademark exclamation “Suffering Sappho,” was taken from one of these women, and her looks and bulletproof “bracelets of submission” were taken from the other.
This week, we take an in depth look at the 1919 Boston Police Strike and ensuing riots. In the post-WW1 inflation of the summer of 1919, Boston police officers were earning wages set in 1857. Around the country, workers were striking, while the upper classes feared a Bolshevik-influenced revolution. When 72% of the police force walked off the job, lawlessness ruled in Boston for several days. Governor Calvin Coolidge sent in the state militia, and emerged a hero, paving his way to the White House. Listen to the story!
Despite what a lot of people think, the victims of the Salem witch trials were hanged, not burned at the stake. However, in the history of Massachusetts, two women were executed by burning them at the stake, one in 1681 and another in 1755. If witchcraft was a crime against both the state and God, what crime could be worse in Puritan Boston? A note about the content this week. We frankly describe acts of brutal violence, and we at times use the racial language of our 17th and 18th century sources. If you usually listen with children, you might want to listen to this episode alone first and decide if it’s appropriate for them.
This week, we’re going to talk about Isaiah Thomas. Not the NBA star, but the colonial printer and founder of the Massachusetts Spy, whose office became known by the British as the Sedition Foundry. He snuck his presses out of Boston on the eve of war, helped Paul Revere spread the news of the British march, and shared first-hand accounts of the battles at Concord and Lexington. Later, he would spread his business empire across multiple states, and become a historian, founding the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. Listen to his story!
This week we celebrate Patriots’ Day, and the anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous ride. It’s easy to forget that Paul Revere’s story didn’t end on April 18, 1775. This week, we bring you a less glorious story about Paul Revere, one that’s not shrouded in myth. In 1779, Revere was among the leaders of a military expedition in Maine that ended with the greatest US Naval defeat prior to Pearl Harbor, and eventually led to his court martial on charges of cowardice and insubordination.
Well, listen children, and you shall hear,
A different story of Paul Revere.
In Maine, the troops fled before a British drive,
Until hardly a man was left alive.
They court martialed Paul in ‘82, I fear.
In 1849, Boston was rocked by the crime of the (19th) century when Professor John Webster murdered Dr. George Parkman in his lab at Harvard Medical School. The world was riveted by the investigation and trial that ensued, while the Boston Brahmins were shaken to the core by the scandal in their ranks. The courtroom drama lived up to our modern-day CSI standards, offering one of the earliest uses of forensic evidence and a legal standard still in use today. Listen to the show!
In March 1870, forty-two women marched into their polling place in Hyde Park and illegally cast ballots in the local election. They were led by local residents and radical activists Sarah and Angelina Grimké. The Grimké sisters were born into a slave owning family in South Carolina, but then spent their lives fighting for abolition, suffrage, and equal rights. Listen to their remarkable story!
In this outtake from Episode 22, Jake and Nikki struggle to keep it together for a quote from Samuel Sewall on the impropriety of April Fools’ Day.
This week’s episode features a conversation with Brooke Barbier, founder of Ye Olde Tavern Tours and author of the new book Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire. We talk about a forgotten Revolutionary War story, why the Revolutionary period isn’t as simple as good guys and bad guys, and which Founding Fathers we’d like to have a beer with. Stick around after the interview to find out what’s coming up this week in Boston history, and how you can win a private tour of the Back Bay with hosts Nikki and Jake. Listen to the show!