The Brinks robbery, an infamous 1950 heist in Boston’s North End, captivated the nation and baffled the FBI. It was the largest robbery in American history up to that time.
This week’s episode takes on the early history of Boston’s Chinatown, two murders that took place there at the turn of the twentieth century, and a terrifying crackdown on Chinese Americans in Boston that sparked an international incident and has parallels in today’s headlines.
This episode examines the life of Walter Dodd, who started his career as a janitor at Harvard Medical School before becoming a pharmacist, physician, and the Father of American Radiology. Though as you will hear, his journey was not without great personal sacrifice.
Since 1651, Boston has had a legal responsibility to mark and measure its boundaries every few years. Despite advances in technology, the practice of “perambulating the bounds” means that someone has to go out and walk the town lines. This law is one of the oldest still on the books, but when was the last time Boston perambulated its bounds? Listen now!
During a late nineteenth century canoe craze, recreational canoeing became Boston’s hottest leisure time activity. Young lovers took advantage of the privacy and intimacy of a canoe to engage in a little bit of illicit romance, leading a humorless state police agency to ban kissing in canoes on the Charles River.
Despite our liberal reputation today, for years Boston was a bastion of official censorship. Authors and playwrights whose works were considered obscene had to create a watered-down “Boston version.” The Watch and Ward Society decided what art, theater, and literature was permissible, and what would be Banned in Boston!
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.
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.
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.