History

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America's first blockbuster: a depiction of the Civil War and early Reconstruction that featured  white actors in blackface, portraying feeble-minded or rapacious slaves, culminating with masked Klansmen galloping in to save the South. On today show, we talk about the film that set of a resurgence of savage Klan activity and has had an enduring influence on American racism and politics. Then, vexillogists, people who study flags. Here's a trick: if you want to design a great flag, start by drawing a one-by-one-and-a-half inch rectangle on a piece of paper. And finally -- what happened to surrender? It's becoming increasingly rare. 

Jacob Carozza/NHPR

The twenty-fifth annual American Independence Festival brought hundreds of visitors to Exeter this weekend. The festival aims to show visitors what life was like in the colonial period. 

For the professionals in colonial garb, like milliner Tara Raiselis, it is a place to show their unique skills and teach curious visitors.

"A milliner in the eighteenth century was sort of your fashion emporium," Raiselis explained. "Think of it as your miniature department store."

American author Erskine Caldwell was born in Georgia in 1903. His most famous novel, 1932’s Tobacco Road, boldly addressed the South’s inequalities during the Great Depression.

“He was writing about racial relations when one did not write about racial relations," said Phillip Cronenwett of Dartmouth College in 1989. "He was writing about the difference between the rural wealthy and the rural poor when one did not talk about that sort of thing.”

This week, we’re taking a fresh look at Caldwell, whose writing depicted what he saw as the realities of society – however unpleasant those realities might be.

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Fifty-five years ago, Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird gave the nation a glimpse of the deep south. Soon afterwards the author and the town that inspired the classic book disappeared from public imaginations. Today, we take a look at the conflicted history of a town that produced two great American authors. Then, the skill, planning, and access required to successfully dupe the art world easily captivates the public imagination. We’ll explore the meticulous effort behind some of the greatest art frauds. And, few people realize the danger works of art can face while safely housed inside a museum – from docents.

Courtesy of the Glessner House Museum in Chicago.

About seventy years ago, a North Country woman was one of the earliest proponents of forensics and an  analytical approach to crime investigation best known to many from the television program CSI. 

bulbocode909 via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/b7u4np

This week, South Carolina’s senate debates whether the Confederate flag should be removed from public view at the state capitol. We're looking at the film that helped resuscitate the confederacy after the Civil War – D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. Then, when NBC canceled Hannibal earlier this summer, fans hardly had time to complain before rumors began to circulate about the show being picked up by one of the online streaming services now keeping shows alive long after networks give up on them. Finally, a Supreme Court case that was overshadowed by an historic slate of decisions. A California farm challenged a Depression-era law that allows the government to forcibly appropriate food crops to control prices.

7.05.15: Celebrating the American Legacy

Jul 3, 2015
Logan Shannon for NHPR

Historians often interpret the Civil War in terms of important battles, and number of lives lost. But what about  food? Today, we explore a history of the war through the lens of a cookbook. Then, a man who decided to do what nobody has done in more than a century ... cross the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. Finally, the 4th of July marks the annual Mountain Men Revival in Pinedale, Wyoming. There, dozens of rugged-looking men wearing animal skins shake off the yoke of civilization, tether their horses to trees, make camp, and join others over grilled buffalo meat.

Ken Rudin for NHPR

July 1, 1995 – In the race for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole holds a 39-point lead over Sen. Phil Gramm in an average of national polls.

6.29.15: Crossing the Oregon Trail and Civil War Food

Jun 29, 2015
Baker County Tourism via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/uxQVku

Historians often interpret the Civil War in terms of important battles, and number of lives lost. But what about  food? Today, we explore a history of the war through the lens of a cookbook. Then, a man who decided to do what nobody has done in more than a century ... cross the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. And finally, we take a look at Overtraining Syndrome, a debilitating disease that can cause strange pain, loss of appetite, and even the symptoms of leukemia.

6.25.15: The Lost Art of Surrender & Still Dreaming

Jun 25, 2015
Jan Jacobsen via Google Images Creative Commons / http://www.worldpeace.no/THE-WHITE-FLAG.htm

“From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever…” from Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce to General Lee, the act of surrender has a noble past. We look at the history of surrender in warfare and discover why waving the white flag has become increasingly rare. Then, we talk to two filmmakers who set up cameras at an assisted living facility for artists whose performing days are far behind them. Their new documentary follows the cast of residents as they rehearse for a public performance of a Shakespearean classic. 

Listen to the full show. 

Paul L. Dineen via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/ebu1fU

“Birthday suit”, “in the buff”, “wearing nothing but a smile.” Call it what you will, on today’s show we’ll strip bare the American nudism movement and we’ll explore the progressive-era origins and continuing tensions over what it means to take it all off.

Then, we’ll hear about two young men who embarked on a bold crime spree, stealing thousands in gold and weapons. The hitch? It all went down in a video game. 

5.25.15: Happy Memorial Day

May 25, 2015
Peter Miller via flickr Creative Commons| / flic.kr/p/aezcJU

Each Memorial Day, the country comes together to remember the fallen – but history hasn’t always been so kind. When President Lincoln was assassinated, many people publically celebrated his death, and not just in the south. On today’s show, the myth of a country united in mourning. Plus, a look at why some important historical events go altogether unremembered – like the sinking of The Sultana, America’s deadliest maritime disaster. And a Vietnam veteran says thank you to the comrade who saved him – not from bullets, but from himself.

Michael Rosenstein / Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/NjzDI

  There’s an interesting provision in New Hampshire state law. Title III, Chapter 51 requires that once, every seven years, members of a town's selectboard or their designees must physically walk and inspect the borders of each town or city, and see that they're well maintained. 

www.flickr.com/photos/wonker/

The Red Sox and the Yankees, Ali versus Frazier, the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers. These are some of America's most notable sports rivalries, but they’ve got nothing on international cricket. On today’s show, we explore the epic sports rivalry between India and Pakistan.

Plus, everybody knows about the Titanic - so how come nobody remembers the sinking of the Sultana, the deadliest maritime disaster in American history?  We explore why some of the biggest historical events don’t take up much space in the history books. 

xlibber via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/c6iABC

Serving today’s ultra-rich may not be so much about finicky Downton Abbey-esque table settings, but it often involves lots of unexpected duties. On today’s show, we’ll talk to a writer who enrolled at the nation’s foremost “Butler Boot Camp,” where students learn to navigate the whims and habits of today’s elite. Then, the story of Sylvester Graham and his signature snack: the graham cracker, which was borne out of philosophy that promoted chastity, temperance, and the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and spices. All of which could excite our animal desires. 

New Hampshire House of Representatives

  Deep in the state archives, a document of historical significance was recently discovered many thought had been lost forever.

The large, framed document, or broadside, is a commemoration of the centennial of the United States.

It’s dated July 4, 1876, and is signed by president Ulysses S. Grant, the Supreme Court justices, and all members of the U.S. House and Senate at the time.

The document is set to be unveiled at a ceremony in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse Wednesday morning.

Good Gig: Denim Historian Tracey Panek

Feb 26, 2015
Photo: Levi Strauss & Co. Archives

The Levi Strauss & Co. is an American icon dating back to the gold rush days in California. Today's Good Gig is Tracey Panek, denim historian for Levi Strauss.

Today would have been the 186th birthday of Levi Strauss, born Loeb Strauss in Bavaria. He came to the US to find his fortune, and made his mark on fashion and history when he patented the now iconic Levi's jeans.

Tracey told us about Levi Strauss and Co.’s New Hampshire connection:

VCU Tompkins-McCaw Library Special Collections / flic.kr/p/27bFm2

  Malaria threatens more than half the world’s people. Yet there is still no way to immunize against it. On today’s show, why a promising vaccine developed by an upstart in the biotech scene is not getting funded. 

Plus, Levi Strauss started making jeans during the gold rush, introducing the  most iconic symbol of American style. Today’s Good Gig profiles the Levi’s in-house historian who sifts through mine shafts and dusty attics to find the stories behind every crease. 

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Video Games & History

Mark Stevens via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/oWwRHM

According to a report from the National Park Service only 7% of annual park visitors are African American. On today’s show, we delve into environmental history and cultural studies to find out why the story of the American outdoors is so white.

Then, environmentalists have taken many tacks to get people to be “greener”: the doomsday approach, education, shame. Now new research suggests another way to increase green behaviors: a salary. Why paying people an hourly wage decreases environmentally-friendly behaviors.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Harold Holzer's 'Lincoln And The Power Of The Press'

Feb 17, 2015
haroldholzer.com

Abraham Lincoln is most often remembered for preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, and his untimely death. But—a less- documented aspect of Honest Abe’s legacy, according to scholar Harold Holzer, was the extent of his involvement with the press, which, at the time, was coming into its own as a strong, partisan force in shaping public opinion.

This program was originally broadcast on 11/12/14.

GUESTS:

2.16.14: Presidents' Day

Feb 16, 2015
WorldIslandInfo.com, Wystan, & U.S. Embassy New Delhi via Flickr Creative Commons

Word of Mouth celebrates Presidents’ Day with presidential portraits from Writers on a New England Stage. We’ll talk to three authors who took a deeper look into the complexities and motivations of American leaders throughout history.

 

A new book by UNH historian Jason Sokol describes what he calls the region’s 'conflicted soul’ when it comes to race. Sokol explores the discrepancies between the North’s image as haven from the segregated south, and the harsh realities that African Americans faced in black neighborhoods from Boston to Brooklyn.

GUESTS:

Sean Hurley

For the first time in their history, the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake in Maine have authorized production of an authentic Alfred Shaker Chair.  While the Shakers will oversee the process, the actual chair will be made by Adam Nudd-Homeyer of Sandwich [Adam's story can be heard here].  

The village at Sabbathday Lake itself is not surprising.  An 18th century New England colony of red barns and white meeting houses clustered around a four story homestead where the last 3 living Shakers in the world reside.

L: Blake Patterson R: The Verge / flic.kr/p/8Z7VsR | bit.ly/1pMBf6S

In the early days of the internet, millions flocked to chat rooms to connect with like minds – and bodies -- the world over. But the group chat was soon replaced by Facebook and Twitter…or was it? On today’s show, the group chat makes a comeback.

Then, western history is dominated by stories of great men and women, but we rarely hear about those who helped them along the way. We’ll unearth history’s secret sidekicks: from the man who encouraged Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to embrace pacifism, to Julia Warhol, who set her son Andy on a path to the art world.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Jack Rodolico

 In 2015, the City of Concord will honor its 250th anniversary. 

For centuries, the Merrimack River made Concord a prime location for Native Americans first, then European settlers later.

And in the 1800s, the city was famous for Concord Coaches – horse-drawn buggies that were manufactured to-order for customers around the world.

The Modern Bra Turns 100

Nov 19, 2014
Via Wikimedia commons

Over the last 100 years they’ve been bought, sold, cherished, and burned. When Caresse Crosby filed a patent application for a "backless brassiere" in 1914, she likely never thought she'd see a day when a diamond encrusted bra worn by a super model would make headlines. From ancient Roman mosaics to Gautier's designs that Madonna famously wore, the bra has gone through a lot of changes over the years.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

Among the things we take for granted in today’s America is knowing the time, which makes transportation, business and national events possible. This, however, was not always the case.

On today’s show, from building sewers to standardizing time, the invisible innovations that got us where we are today. And, protests in Ferguson, Missouri prompted calls for a national conversation about race and racism. A filmmaker asks: Can we have a productive discussion if the privileged majority can’t name what it means to be white?

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

“Apple Pay” came out of the gate with great fanfare and claims that the mobile-payment system will make purchasing easier and more secure.  On today’s show, a closer scan of Apple Pay and find out who is set to benefit – and who is not.

And, from traffic cams to EZ Pass, big brother is riding along with us more than we think. But just how much are drivers being monitored? And, after a week of historic wins and losses, we’ll sample the art of the concession speech.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

courtesy Library of Congress

A new book is shining a light on an unusual chapter in the life of the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy.

In the second half of the 19th Century, the New Hampshire native was a wealthy and prominent public figure. But toward the end of her life, Eddy faced a legal challenge to her wealth and her fitness to manage her own affairs – and it came in part from inside her own family.

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