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The weekly show where two Boston history buffs tell their favorite stories from Boston history.

The weekly show where two Boston history buffs tell their favorite stories from Boston history.
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The weekly show where two Boston history buffs tell their favorite stories from Boston history.






Trailblazers (episode 110)

This week we’re digging into our archives to bring you discussions of three Bostonian ladies who forged new paths for women. Katherine Nanny Naylor was granted the first divorce in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, allowing her to ditch an abusive husband and make her way as an entrepreneur. Annette Kellerman was a professional swimmer who popularized the one-piece swimming suit and made a (sometimes literal) splash in vaudeville and silent films. And Amelia Earhart took to the skies after...


Bohemian Boston’s Gay Grampa (episode 109)

Prescott Townsend was a classic Boston Brahmin. He was born into Boston’s elite in 1894, graduated from Harvard, and served in World War I. All signs pointed to a very conventional path through life, but Townsend’s trajectory would take him far from the arc followed by his contemporaries from the Cabot, Lowell, or Adams families. Instead, Prescott Townsend would be active in radical theater, experimental architecture, and, surprisingly late in his life, he would help found the American gay...


Mary Dyer, the Quaker Martyr (episode 108)

Mary Dyer was an early Puritan settler of Boston. Born in England, Mary moved to Boston in 1635 and was soon drawn to the Quaker religion, in part because of the opportunities it afforded women to learn and lead. New laws forbade her from professing her faith publicly. Not one to back down, Mary was arrested and banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony several times before finally being hanged on Boston Neck, becoming one of our city’s four Quaker martyrs. Today, a statue of Mary Dyer...


Harvard’s Thanksgiving Day Riot (episode 107)

When it comes to Boston history, it seems like there’s a riot for every possible season. It’s Thanksgiving season now, so this week we’re going to discuss a riot that took place at Harvard University… not during the tumultuous anti-war protests of the 1960s or 1970s, but on Thanksgiving day in 1787. There’s tantalizingly little in the historical record about what happened or how it started, but we know that some very famous historical figures were right in the middle of the action. Show...


Miss Mac, from Wellesley to the WAVES (episode 106)

In honor of Veterans Day, we’re talking about the women who served in World War II in a Navy outfit called the WAVES. Specifically, their commanding officer, Mildred McAfee (later Mildred McAfee Horton). When the war started, she was president of Wellesley College, but before it was over, she would be the first woman to become a commissioned officer in the US Navy, commanding a force of nearly 100,000 people. Show notes:


The Girl in Pantaloons (episode 105)

Emma Snodgrass defied the gender roles of the 1850s, getting arrested multiple times in Boston for appearing in public unchaperoned and dressed as a man. Was she a troublemaker looking for thrills? Was she trying to pass as a man in order to find work and independence in a society with few opportunities for women? Or was she a trans person in an era that didn’t yet have words to describe that concept? Unfortunately, the historic record leaves us with just as many questions as answers. Show...


The Iron Lung (episode 104)

In 1928, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital demonstrated a groundbreaking medical advancement – the iron lung. Prior to the arrival of the polio vaccination in 1955, the deadly disease was the most feared illness in America. With this invention by two Harvard faculty members, the diaphragm paralysis that accompanied polio no longer had to be a death sentence. Show notes:


Founding Martyr (episode 103)

In this week’s show, we are talking about all things Joseph Warren. Author Christopher di Spigna joins us to discuss his book Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero, a new biography of our favorite patriot. We’ll start with his boyhood in a Roxbury filled with farms and apple orchards, then cover his education at Harvard, his rise in politics, his untimely death at the start of the revolution, and the recent discovery of living...


Jubilee Days (episode 102)

In 1869, an eccentric entrepreneur and musical visionary built one of the largest buildings in 19th Century Boston. It was a concert hall with twice the capacity of the modern TD garden, and it was built to house the largest musical spectacular the world had ever seen up to that point. It was the Boston Coliseum, built to house the Grand National Peace Jubilee celebrating the end of America’s Civil War. Show notes:


Riot Classics (episode 101)

For this week’s show, we’re revisiting three highlights from Boston’s long and storied history of rioting. We’ll include stories from past episodes covering the 1919 Boston police strike, 1747 impressment riots, and the 1837 Broad Street riot. Listen to the end to find out how you can get some free HUB History swag in celebration of our 100th episode! Show notes:


The Occupation of Boston (episode 100)

250 years ago this week, British troops landed in Boston. Author J.L. Bell joins us to discuss the British government's decision to send troops in an attempt to keep peace after Boston's years of upheaval. Instead of bringing peace, the tense occupation would culminate in the Boston Massacre less than two years later. Listen to the end to find out how you can get some free HUB History swag in celebration of our 100th episode! Show notes:


Boston's Wild West (episode 99)

Brighton is one of our westernmost neighborhoods, and it’s often associated with Boston’s large and sometimes unruly student population, but in the mid 19th century, Brighton was home to all the elements of a western movie. There were cattle drives, stockyards, saloons, and stampedes through the streets. Before it was tamed, unruly Brighton was our own wild west. Show notes:


Margaret Sanger, Uncensored (episode 98)

his week, we’re discussing Margaret Sanger’s thwarted attempt to present a lecture on birth control to the good citizens of Boston in April of 1929. The 1920s were a fairly liberating time for women – women were voting, drinking alcohol socially, cutting their hair short, and dancing the Charleston in short dresses. However, Boston was slow to let its hair down under the stern gaze of the Watch and Ward Society, and birth control remained one of the ultimate taboos. Show notes:...


Hunting the King Killers (episode 97)

This week, we tell a story from very early in Boston’s history, a story partly shrouded in legend. The cast of characters includes everyone from Increase Mather to Nathaniel Hawthorne, encompassing two kings, two continents, two colonies, and Royal governors Endecott, Andros, and Hutchinson. It is the story of two judges who signed the death warrant for a king, famously known as the regicides, or king killers. Edward Whalley and William Goffe became celebrities in Boston, before being forced...


September 1918, with Skip Desjardin (episode 96)

This week, author Skip Desjardin tells us about his new book September 1918: War, Plague, and the World Series. He introduces us to a pivotal month, when world history was being made in Boston and Bostonians were making history around the world. The cast of characters ranges from Babe Ruth to Blackjack Pershing to EE Cummings. During our discussion, you’ll learn about the Massachusetts National Guardsmen who fought the first American-led battle in World War I, you’ll hear about the...


Pandemic 1918! (episode 95)

On August 27, 1918 Boston became acquainted with the epidemic that has gone down in history as the “Spanish flu.” A more accurate name for this disease outbreak might be the “Boston flu,” because our city is where this influenza variant mutated and first turned truly deadly. The first cases of this new and deadly disease were reported in South Boston 100 years ago this week. Soon, Boston would suffer nearly a thousand deaths per week as the disease peaked. Before it was over, up to 20% of...


Amelia Earhart in Boston (episode 94)

You probably know about Amelia Earhart’s famous career as a groundbreaking aviator, and you almost certainly know about her famous disappearance over the Pacific. But you may not know about Amelia Earhart’s first career as a social worker in one of Boston’s many settlement houses. This week, we discuss her early exposure to aviation, the famed Friendship crossing, and also her reflections on her career of service to newly immigrated Americans. Show notes:


Folk Magic and Mysteries at the Fairbanks House (episode 93)

In this episode, we're joined by the curator of one of the oldest houses in North America. He'll tell us about evidence that's been uncovered that generations of residents may have believed in an ancient form of countermagic. The inhabitants of Dedham’s Fairbanks House used charms and hex marks deriving from Puritan, Catholic, and pagan religious traditions in an attempt to ward off evil forces that might have included witches, demons, and even disease. Fairbanks House Museum curator Daniel...


Bullets on the Boardwalk (episode 92)

On August 8, 1920, an epic brawl broke out on Revere Beach when police attempted to arrest a group of four disorderly sailors. In the chaos that followed, 400 sailors attempted to storm the police station to free their comrades, even stealing rifles from the beachfront shooting galleries and turning them against the police. Soldiers from nearby Fort Banks had to be called out to restore order at the point of a bayonet. It was the height of Revere Beach’s early 20th century popularity, when...


Boston’s Pickwick Disaster and the Dance of Death (episode 91)

On the evening of July 3, 1925, Boston’s Pickwick nightclub collapsed while couples packed the dance floor. Dozens were trapped in the rubble, while firefighters, police, and laborers worked desperately to free them. In the end, 44 people were killed and many more were injured. A rumor circulated that the disaster had been caused by a popular dance called the Charleston. This fake news soon became one of the most viral stories of the newspaper era, causing many cities to ban couples from...