Episode 64: Harvard Indian College, Promises Broken… and Kept

There’s an oft forgotten clause written into Harvard’s 1650 charter promising to educate the Native American youth of Massachusetts.  This week’s episode looks at the early, mostly unsuccessful efforts to create an Indian College on the Harvard campus, the abandonment of that plan after King Philip’s War soured the English settlers on their earlier plans for Christianizing local Native American tribes, and how modern scholarship is helping to rediscover this legacy and rededicate Harvard to embracing Native Americans.  

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Episode 63: Puritan UFOs

What did TV character Fox Mulder have in common with John Winthrop, the Puritan founder of Boston? They both recorded strange lights in the sky and other unexplained phenomena in extensive detail. This week, we’re going to explore the close encounters Winthrop described in 1639 and 1644. There were unexplained lights darting around the sky in formation at impossible speeds, ghostly sounds, and witnesses who claimed to have lost time. It’s a scene straight out of the X-Files, except these are considered the first recorded UFO sightings in North America.

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Inimical blooper


\ i-?ni-mi-k?l \

adj being adverse often by reason of hostility or malevolence

This is the word that finally broke Jake.  Listen as I try repeatedly to say a phrase from William Austin’s challenge to duel James Elliot:

Mr. A. entertaining no inimical feelings towards Mr. E. does not conceive himself in honor bound to expose his own life or that of Mr. E. to any greater hazard than is here offered.

It seems so simple, but 12 minutes later I had to give up and let Nikki read the quote.  I just couldn’t seem to get inimical to come out of my mouth.

Warning: Lots of very profane language

Episode 62: Ten Paces, Fire! Boston’s Hamiltonian Duel

Early in the morning of March 31, 1806, two young men of Boston faced each other across a marshy field outside Providence, Rhode Island.  With the sun beginning to peek above the horizon, they marked out ten paces between themselves, then stood facing one another.  Each had a friend at his right hand, as they coolly leveled their pistols at one another.  Now, one of the friends called out, “Are you ready… Present… Fire!”  And both men squeezed the triggers on their dueling pistols.  

If that sounds an awful lot like the famous duel that Alexander Hamilton fought against Aaron Burr two years earlier, you’re not wrong.  In ways that we’ll examine, it’s even more similar to the duel that Alexander’s son Philip Hamilton fought against a man named George Eacker in 1801.  

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Episode 61: Annexation, Making Boston Bigger for 150 Years

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Boston transformed itself from a town on a tiny peninsula to a sprawling city.  In part, this was done by creating new land in the Back Bay and South Boston, but the city gained a great amount of area by annexing its neighbors.  The first was Roxbury, which joined the city of Boston 150 years ago this week.  Dorchester, Brighton, West Roxbury, and Charlestown would follow.  Other towns, like Cambridge and Brookline would not.  Find out why in this week’s show.

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Episode 60: Holidays on the Harbor

If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you’ll know that the Boston Harbor Islands are one of our favorite local destinations.  This week, we’re sharing three stories from the Harbor Islands, all of which originally aired within the first 20 episodes of the podcast.  We’ll hear about the zoo shipwreck, a hermit who made her home on the harbor, and the secret Harbor Island base where Nazis were smuggled into the country after World War II.

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Episode 59: Corn, Cotton, and Condos; 378 Years on the Mother Brook

Everyone knows the Charles River and the Neponset River, but have you ever heard of the Mother Brook?  It is America’s first industrial canal, built by Puritan settlers in the earliest days of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and vital to the development of Dorchester, Hyde Park, and Dedham.  Plus, by connecting the rivers on either side, it turns the landmass occupied by Newton, Brookline, and most of Boston into an island!

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Episode 58: Harvard’s Human Computers Reach for the Stars

During an era more associated with the Wild West, a group of women in Cambridge made historic advances in the field of astronomy, discovering new stars and fundamental principles about how our universe works.  In the beginning, they were treated as menial clerical workers and paid a fraction of what their male counterparts got.  Only decades later did they win academic respect, earning advanced degrees and finally the title Professor.  They were the Human Computers of the Harvard University Observatory.

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