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The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences

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From the automobile to the rocket ship, from chewing gum to the TV dinner, from the first face in a photograph to the first voice on the telephone, the world has been forever changed by impossible technologies and startling ideas. But these inventions do not always make the world a better place. These are the stories of The First, a podcast exploring the history of human innovation, focusing less on iconic inventors and more on the forgotten geniuses and everyday people that were responsible for bringing us the tools of the modern world. Brought to you by Greg Young of the Bowery Boys podcast.

From the automobile to the rocket ship, from chewing gum to the TV dinner, from the first face in a photograph to the first voice on the telephone, the world has been forever changed by impossible technologies and startling ideas. But these inventions do not always make the world a better place. These are the stories of The First, a podcast exploring the history of human innovation, focusing less on iconic inventors and more on the forgotten geniuses and everyday people that were responsible for bringing us the tools of the modern world. Brought to you by Greg Young of the Bowery Boys podcast.
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Location:

United States

Description:

From the automobile to the rocket ship, from chewing gum to the TV dinner, from the first face in a photograph to the first voice on the telephone, the world has been forever changed by impossible technologies and startling ideas. But these inventions do not always make the world a better place. These are the stories of The First, a podcast exploring the history of human innovation, focusing less on iconic inventors and more on the forgotten geniuses and everyday people that were responsible for bringing us the tools of the modern world. Brought to you by Greg Young of the Bowery Boys podcast.

Language:

English


Episodes

The First Apartment Building in America (A Stuyvesant Story)

1/3/2018
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Apartment living is something we take for granted today, the option for those who can't afford or don't desire a private home. But how did this type of living situation become popular in the United States? In mid-19th century New York, people lived in townhouses, boarding houses or tenements. But far-thinking urban planners like Calvert Vaux touted a new form of housing popularized by the French -- the flat. Rutherford Stuyvesant, the wealthy heir of a couple notable American families,...

Duration:00:25:20

The Lost Highway: America's First Cross Country Road

12/21/2017
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In 1900, there were about 8,000 registered automobiles in the United States. They were a genuine novelty. Those that attempted to go on 'road trips' met with a frustrating reality -- there were no drivable roads, no unified road maps, no nation-wide infrastructure of gas stations or amenities. The first automobiles to attempt cross-country travel were essentially UFOs streaking through a sparsely populated and isolated America. This is the story of how that all changed. This is the story...

Duration:00:34:20

How Electric Light Changed Christmas Forever

12/6/2017
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That string of multi-colored Christmas lights wrapped around your tree (or your house) is far more influential to American history than you might think. The first electric Christmas lights debuted in 1882, shortly after the invention of the incandescent light bulb itself, in the New York home of a Thomas Edison employee. They quickly became a vehicle for electric companies to tout the magic of electrical power. In the process, they helped secularize very basic symbols of the Christmas...

Duration:00:28:50

The Plant Doctor: The Extraordinary George Washington Carver

10/6/2017
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How much do you know about George Washington Carver, the man born into slavery who became America’s most famous botanist in the first half of the 20 century? He didn’t discover the peanut, a legume commonplace in the human diet for thousands of years, nor did he invent peanut butter. What Carver did – and what he remains underappreciated for – was help reorient man’s relationship with plants for the modern world. He saw items like the sweet potato and the soybean for their unlimited...

Duration:00:31:28

The Real Housewives of Early America: The Story of the First American Cookbook

9/21/2017
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“Over the river and through the woods” into the history of early American cuisine. The first published European cookbooks in the world weren’t meant to enshrine ideal meals but rather to inform a woman of her place in the household with titles like The English Housewife, The Compleat Housewife, The Frugal Housewife. But for American cooks, they lacked any ingredients that were native to the American colonies. In 1796 a mysterious woman named Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, the...

Duration:00:30:15

The Rebel: America's Founding Inventor

8/24/2017
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Benjamin Franklin was the most famous American in the world by the time of the Revolutionary War, known as a writer, inventor and philosopher. But as an old man, he would earn another title -- rebel. By the time of the Boston Massacre, Dr. Franklin was already an elderly man, watching the early days of American unrest from his comfy home in London. His scientific experiments were eventually put on hold as he rushed back to the colonies to help set up the mechanism of independence. But...

Duration:00:40:05

Lightning Strikes: Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Experiment

8/11/2017
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How much do you know about one of the most famous scientific experiments in American history? In 1752 Benjamin Franklin and his son William performed a dangerous act of experimentation, conjuring one of nature's most lethal powers from the air itself. This tale -- with the kite and the key -- has entered American urban legend. But it did not happen quite the way you learned about it in school. (Did you know somebody died trying to duplicate Franklin's astonishing feat?) In this second...

Duration:00:30:29

Franklin Gothic: The Invention of Benjamin Franklin

7/27/2017
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Benjamin Franklin did more in his first forty years than most people do in an entire lifetime. Had he not played a pivotal role in the creation of the United States of America, he still would have been considered an icon in the fields of publishing, science and urban planning. How much do you know about Benjamin Franklin the inventor? In this podcast (the first of three parts), Greg takes a dive into his early years as a precocious young inventor and writer, a witty and determined...

Duration:00:34:58

The Secret History of Soft Drinks: A Tale In Four Flavors

6/20/2017
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There is something very, very bizarre about a can of soda. How did this sugary, bubbly beverage – dark brown, or neon orange, or grape, or whatever color Mountain Dew is – how did THIS become such an influential force in American culture? This is the strange and inconceivable story of how the modern soft drink was created. It's a story in four parts -- 1) At the start of the 19th century, two dueling soda fountains in lower Manhattan would set the stage for a century of mass...

Duration:00:30:28

The Devil and The First Broadway Musical

6/1/2017
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The Black Crook is considered the first-ever Broadway musical, a dizzying, epic-length extravaganza of ballerinas, mechanical sets, lavish costumes and a storyline about the Devil straight out of a twisted hallucination. The show took New York by storm when it debuted on September 12, 1866. This is the story of how this completely weird, virtually unstageable production came to pass. Modern musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Hamilton wouldn't quite be what they are today...

Duration:00:24:12

The Bowery Wizards: A History of Early American Tattoos

5/18/2017
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The art of tattooing is as old as written language but it would require the contributions of a few 19th century New York tattoo artists -- and a young inventor with no tattoos whatsoever -- to take this ancient art to the next level. This is the story of the electric tattoo machine, how it was first perfected in a tiny tattoo parlor underneath a New York elevated train and how this relatively simple device changed the face of body art forever. Subscribe to The First podcast on iTunes...

Duration:00:23:57

The First Song Ever Recorded

5/5/2017
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Imagine if we could hear the voices of Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria or Frederick Douglass? Believe it or not, somebody was making audio recordings as far back as the 1850s. This is the story of the first audio recordings ever made and the oldest song recording to ever be heard today, thanks to an intrepid group of tech-savvy historians. Subscribe to The First podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts) so you don't miss out on future episodes!

Duration:00:11:37

Josephine and the Dish-Washing Machine

4/21/2017
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Of the tens of thousands of U.S. patents granted in the 19th century, only a small fraction were held by women. One of those women -- Josephine Cochrane -- would change the world by solving a simple household problem. While throwing lavish dinner parties in her gracious home in Shelbyville, Illinois, Cochrane noticed that her fine china was being damaged while being washed. Certainly there was a better way of doing the dishes? Cochrane's extraordinary adventure would lead to places few...

Duration:00:26:36

Nikola Tesla and the Wireless World

3/26/2017
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The Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla is known as one of the fathers of electricity, the curious genius behind alternating current (AC), the victor in the so-called War of the Currents. But in this episode of The First, starting in the year 1893, Tesla begins conceiving an even grander scheme -- the usage of electromagnetic waves to distribute power. Today we benefit from the electromagnetic spectrum in a variety of ways -- Wi-Fi, X-rays, radio, satellites. One of the roads to these...

Duration:00:29:34

The Big Story of Old Bet: The First Circus Elephant

3/12/2017
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This year marks the end to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and, with it, the end of the traditional American circus. Once at the core of the American circus was the performing elephant. Today we understand that such captivity is no place for an endangered beast but, for much of this country's history, circus elephants were one of the centerpieces of live entertainment. This is the tale of the first two elephants to ever arrive in the United States. The first came by ship in...

Duration:00:29:38

Unimate and the Rise of the Robots

2/24/2017
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Robots conjure up thoughts of distant technological landscapes and even apocalyptic scenarios, but the truth is, robots are a very old creation, tracing back to the ancient world. We can thank science fiction writers for inventing new and serious ideas about robots, automatons previously relegated as mere amusement. But they remained an unimaginable concept -- rendered in a corny, campy fashion in the 1940s and 50s -- until the development of computing and cybernetics. In 1961 the first...

Duration:00:34:16

The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Revolution: The Story of the First Bikini

2/10/2017
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In 1907, the professional swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested on a Massachusetts beach for wearing a revealing bathing suit -- a skin-tight black ensemble which covered most of her body. Less than forty years later, in 1946, the owner of a Parisian lingerie shop invented the bikini, perhaps the smallest amount of fabric to ever change the world. In this podcast, I'll tell you what happened to change people's perception of public decency in those forty years and explain how the bikini...

Duration:00:31:09

This Morbid Invention: The First Electric Chair

1/27/2017
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The harnessing of electricity by the great inventors of the Gilded Age introduced the world to the miracle of light at all hours of the day. But exposure to electricity's raw power was dangerous to man and a few thought this useful in the employment of the state’s darkest responsibilities -- capital punishment. This is the story of the first electric chair, the peculiar rivalry which helped create it -- an epic feud between Edison and Westinghouse, between DC and AC -- and its fateful...

Duration:00:28:27

The Cow and The Country Boy (The First Vaccine)

1/13/2017
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This is the story of the first vaccine, perhaps one of the greatest inventions in modern human history. Starring -- a country doctor with a love of birds, a milkmaid with translucent skin, an eight-year-old boy with no idea what he's in for and a wonderful cow that holds the secret to human immunity.

Duration:00:31:21

Making the Pledge of Allegiance

12/16/2016
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The Pledge of Allegiance feels like an American tradition that traces itself back to the Founding Fathers, but, in fact, it's turning 125 years old in 2017. This is the story of the invention of the Pledge, a set of words that have come to embody the core values of American citizenship. And yet it began as part of a for-profit magazine promotion, written by a Christian socialist minister! In this podcast listen to the Pledge wording evolve throughout the years and discover the curious...

Duration:00:28:05