The 1942 fire at Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub killed a staggering 492 people, making it the deadliest fire in Boston history and one of the deadliest fires in US history. For Boston, it is the deadliest modern disaster of any type. Only the smallpox epidemics of the early 1700s and the 1918 Spanish flu rival it for loss of life.
This week’s show is about Charles “King” Solomon, also known as Boston Charlie, whose criminal enterprise placed him at the head of organized crime in Boston throughout the prohibition era. He reached influence at the national level, set policies in play that led to tragedy at the Cocoanut Grove, and in death, left a wake that may have led to the rise of Whitey Bulger.
Here’s a fun blooper from Jake. While I was hosting solo last week, I ran up against the Boston history podcaster’s Achilles heel… a complete inability to say the word “Massachusetts.” I stumble almost every time, and it’s a word that comes up a lot. Here, I try several times to say “Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination,” with sad results.
Your humble hosts are out having summertime fun this week. Don’t worry, though… Jake is flying solo this week, and bringing you this week’s historical anniversaries. We’ll be back next week with a real episode.
In this episode, we continue our tale of Boston in the Golden Age of Piracy, picking up at the end of the War of The Spanish Succession. We’ll learn about some of the most fearsome and notorious pirates in history, as well as one of the most ineffective. We’ll see how one of these pirates gave a founding father his start in public life, which US president’s great grandfather bought a former pirate as a slave, and what other president’s great grandfather decapitated a pirate with an axe.
It’s been a while since I shared a blooper, so here’s a fun one. That cow that interrupts my discussion of a Revolutionary War skirmish? My dog, groaning with boredom in the background. You’d be shocked how often I have to edit similar vocalizations out of the podcast.
With a partial “Muslim Ban” in place, it’s important to remember that vilifying “enemy aliens” is one of the darkest chapters of our nation’s history. A hundred years ago, Americans were all too willing to imprison or even deport their neighbors of German descent. Here in Boston, the preeminent director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra was affected, along with almost a third of the orchestra’s musicians.
Shiver me timbers! This is the first in a two-part series about Boston’s role in the Golden Age of Piracy, from 1650 to 1726. A few pirates set sail from our city, some preyed on the shipping coming in and out of our port, and even more met their ends on the gallows in Boston. We’ll hear stories of daring raids and buried treasures, of mutiny, jailbreak, and double crossing.
Dr. Joseph Warren was the greatest Patriot leader you’ve never heard of. His many accomplishments led the royal governor of Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage, to remark that “The death of Joseph Warren is akin to the death of five hundred Patriots.” He was so in demand that his body was moved three times after his death at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Everyone knows the story of the Boston Strangler. Fewer people know the tale of The Giggler, Boston’s lesser known serial killer. The victims fit no pattern, they were a young boy and girl, a grown man, and an old lady. The Giggler would simply feel what he described as an irresistible urge to kill.