On March 4, 1897, a giant explosion rocked the corner of Tremont Street and Boylston across from Boston Common. Ten people were killed, and dozens were injured. How did construction of America’s first subway lead to this disaster? And why was it so difficult for survivors to get compensation for their injuries? Listen to the show to find out! And be sure to stay tuned to the end, so you can find out how to win a free walking tour with hosts Nikki and Jake.
This week’s episode examines two people who chose to live as hermits in and around Boston. When you think of a hermit, your mental image is probably a monk or an aging eccentric in a cabin in the woods somewhere. But our subjects this week sought out that kind of solitary existence among the hustle and bustle of the growing city of Boston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. James Gately was known as the Hermit of Hyde Park, and Ann Winsor Sherwin was the Hermit of Boston Harbor. Listen to the show to meet these unique characters!
This week, we’re going to talk about a woman who studied medicine at a time when very few women could access higher education at all, and an African-American who became a physician at a time when half of this country believed that she could be owned by another American. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler would study in Boston and become America’s first black female doctor. Listen to this week’s show for her story!
Your hosts Nikki and Jake are away this week, but through the magic of podcasting, we’re still able to bring you this mini-sode. Since we’re exploring Iceland, land of the Vikings, it only makes sense to bring you the story of a 19th Century Boston millionaire who was convinced that Vikings had once settled along the Charles River. Listen to this week’s episode to find out why!
This week, we’re going to wrap up our series on the Fugitive Slave Act, and the efforts of black and white abolitionists in Boston to resist what they saw as an unjust law. In last week’s show, we discussed how Lewis Hayden and the Vigilance Committee rescued the fugitive Shadrach Minkins from being returned to slavery. This week, we’re going to learn how that act of resistance led to a federal crackdown in Boston, look at two unsuccessful rescues that followed, and see how the unrest galvanized the apathetic population of Boston into a hotbed of radical abolitionism. Listen to this week’s episode for the exciting conclusion!
With our new President doing his best to enforce unjust executive orders, we thought this would be a good moment to revisit an era in which Boston resisted an unjust law. After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, abolitionists in Boston felt that the values of Southern slave power were being forced upon a free city. In 1851, Shadrach Minkins was the first fugitive to be arrested in Boston, but before he could be returned to slavery, a multiracial mob stormed the courtroom and forcibly delivered him to the Underground Railroad. Listen to this week’s episode for the story!
Continue reading Episode 15: Resist! Shadrach Minkins and the Fugitive Slave Act (Black History Month Special, part 2)
Lewis Hayden was born into slavery in Kentucky. When he was ten years old, his owner traded him to a traveling salesman for a pair of horses. But Hayden and his family eventually escaped to freedom, and they settled in Boston. Their Beacon Hill home was a refuge for enslaved people seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad, and he would go as far as threatening to blow the house up instead of cooperating with slave catchers, saying “Go in peace, or go in pieces!” After Lewis Hayden’s death, his wife Harriet endowed a scholarship for African American students at Harvard Medical School, the only endowment contribution to a university made by a formerly enslaved person. For more on these remarkable people, listen to this week’s show!
On a hot summer’s night in 1834, rumors swirled around a Catholic girls’ school in Charlestown. Catholicism was a frightening, unfamiliar religion, and Catholic immigrants were viewed with great suspicion. People said that the nuns were being held in slavery, or that Protestant children were being tortured and forcibly converted. A crowd gathered, and violence flared. When the sun rose the next morning, the Ursuline Convent lay in smoking ruins. Thirteen men were tried, but none served time. What deep seated biases led Yankee Boston down this dark road? Listen to this week’s episode to find out!
In August of 1801, a young man named Jason Fairbanks showed up on his sweetheart’s doorstep. He was covered in blood, and telling the story of a suicide pact gone wrong. This tale of a rich kid gone astray could be ripped from today’s tabloid headlines. Fairbanks and his presumed sweetheart Eliza Fales were the center of a sensational trial, a daring escape from jail, and a manhunt that stretched to the Canadian border. Does this story of star crossed lovers have a happy ending? Listen to this week’s show to find out!
In 1901, a woman named Jane Toppan was arrested on Cape Cod for murder. By the time she went on trial, she had confessed to killing 31 people in Boston, Cambridge, on the Cape, and around the region, and she’s suspected of killing 100 or more. From a tragic childhood, she grew up to be a nurse. She tortured and murdered her patients in dark experiments, while being praised for her caring bedside manner. Before she was caught, she had graduated to killing entire families. Learn about the life and crimes of Jane Toppan, Nightmare Nurse in this week’s show.