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“A big humbug” -- that’s how one critic described America’s first subway system. Other opponents were more extreme. It would release dangerous underground air, some said. It would disturb the dead, others said. A religious leader in Boston declared it a project of Lucifer himself. Why were people so opposed to this new form of transportation? To understand it, we have to rewind centuries -- to a time when people thought that Earth was hollow, and that hell was directly under their feet....
Whatever you think you know of margarine, put that aside. When the spread was first invented in the mid-1800s, it was made very differently -- and solved very real problems for the nutrient-starved people of the time. That sent the dairy industry into a full-blown panic, leading to margarine’s demonization (and then taxation and strange discoloration). In this episode, we explore how the dairy industry got politicians all riled up, what it says about industries’ ability to halt innovation,...
As electricity began to light our world, resistance came from curious corners. “God had decreed that darkness should follow light, and mortals had no right to turn night into day,” wrote one German newspaper. “A lamp for a nightmare,” declared a Scottish poet. And Thomas Edison, the inventor who gave us the first commercial light bulb, tried his hardest to make people fear a competitor’s form of electricity. But here’s the strangest thing of all: Edison and his ilk failed quickly; their...
Pinball was banned from the 1940s to 1970s in many cities across America. New York City’s mayor made a show of bashing pinball machines with a hammer. Church ladies in suburban Chicago went on vigilante raids, ripping games out of stores. In this episode, we go through history to understand how a simple game became demonized. The answer, like pinball itself, requires us to bounce from one object to another, but ultimately falls into one big question: Is pinball a game of skill, or a game...
For 500 years, a succession of kings, sultans, and businessmen have tried to ban or destroy the world’s favorite caffeinated morning pick-me-up. Among their claims: Coffee makes you impotent! It destroys brain tissue! It attacks the nervous system! And most critically of all, it makes you want to take up arms against your government. In this episode, we answer some big questions: Is any of this true? And how did coffee survive centuries of bans, to become today’s best part of waking up?...
When the bicycle debuted in the 1800s, it was blamed for all sorts of problems--from turning people insane to devastating local economies to destroying women's morals. We explore why the bicycle scared so many people, and what happens when the opposite of our fears turn out to be true. Contact us: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @pessimistsarc Website: http://pessimists.co
In the 1750s, a London man took to the streets holding an umbrella—and braved jeers, rock-throwing haters, and even a cab that tried to run him over. We explore why rainy England was once so anti-umbrella, and whether that fight was really ever settled. Contact us: Email: email@example.com Twitter: @pessimistsarc Website: http://pessimists.co
When the car began replacing the horse, pessimists didn't treat it like a great new tool. They called it "the devil wagon," and said its mission was to destroy the world. We explore why the horseless carriage was so scary—and what it took to finally put horse-lovers behind a wheel.
In the early 1900s, recorded music was accused of muddling our minds, destroying art, and even harming babies. What was everyone so afraid of? In this episode, we dig into the early days of music and see what the hysterics properly predicted—and what they never saw coming. Twitter: @pessimistsarc Website: pessimists.co Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Good Old Days
When exactly were the good ol’ days? In this new episode of the Pessimists Archive podcast, we go back in time to find out -- exploring every moment that people claimed was a golden age, and trying to understand why, as Trump’s victory has shown, nostalgia is such a powerful force. Attribution: Edison Blue Amberol: 1870 by Eugene C. Rose and George Rubel
Travel back to the 80s with us, where the portable cassette player was accused of turning people into “wind-up non-humans,” laws were passed to keep them on the streets, and one New Jersey man risked jail time for his right to walk with headphones.