2.15.16: Happy Presidents' Day

Feb 15, 2016
Public Domain

Today America celebrates the forty-three men who have thus far assumed the nation's highest office - but Presidents’ Day was first established in 1885 to celebrate the birthday of only one: George Washington. Turns out, he would have disapproved of all that fanfare.

On today’s show, from mountainside monuments to commemorative  sandwiches, we'll explore the sometimes bewildering ways America remembers its dead presidents.

Also a look at some of the contenders for the Grammy awards airing tonight.

For New Hampshire, Tuesday’s vote is not only a chance to weigh in on the presidential candidates. It’s an opportunity to mark 100 years since the start of the first in the nation presidential primary.

Brady Carlson, from Here & Now contributor New Hampshire Public Radio, reports.

davidcwong888 via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/oQrGBE

When a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, the public cried out against sweatshop conditions and the deadly price of fast fashion - but fashion, it turns out, has been costing people their lives for a very long time.

On today’s show, from poisoned dyes to mercury tainted top-hats, the history of dangerous fashion. Also today, the surrealist origins of the childhood game with the macabre name - Exquisite Corpse.

We'll speak with a member of the punk band, Mission of Burma, who's leading a surrealist games night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire next Thursday.

Plenty of would-be presidents are criss-crossing New Hampshire these days, each hoping he or she will be the one moving into the White House next January.

But plenty of sitting presidents have made their way through this state as well, going all the way back to the first one.

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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.

This program originally broadcast on February 12, 2015.


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On today’s show we’ve got a detailed profile of the late Aaron Schwartz - the cofounder of Reddit whose actions triggered a federal indictment, and whose death has made him a martyr for the free internet movement.

Also today, truth in advertising? Think again. From TV ads, to menus and billboards, we all know food photography looks too good to be edible- today we'll hear the truth behind those perfectly crisped turkeys, immaculately sculpted ice cream cones, and more.  

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After a group of anti-government activists took over an Oregon wildlife refuge last weekend, news outlets are struggling with how to identify them and their goals. On today’s show, a media reporter says in today's partisan, all-in media landscape, news reporters have an obligation to choose words carefully.

Then, 2015 was a banner year for science, from Pluto’s photo shoot, to the Ebola vaccine. So what's next? We'll hear about some of the big ideas in store for 2016, including the future of the gene editing tool: CRISPR.

Billy Hathorn via Creative Commons

  Two objects that have made a big difference in New Hampshire’s presidential primary: newsprint and ink – especially in the hands of the man who published the New Hampshire Union Leader for decades, William Loeb.

Scoring Dreamscapes: The History of Sleep Music

Dec 17, 2015
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If you're a fan of HBO programming, you've probably heard the work of composer Max Richter - he's responsible for scoring one of its dark dramas, The Leftovers. But recently, Richter released something a little more subdued: an eight-hour album called Sleep, which he calls a “lullaby for a frenetic world”. Ambitious though it may be, Richter is hardly the first composer to send people nodding off, or to try and score a dreamscape. 

Fiona Wen Hui C via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/8cnsk4

At 5,525 miles, the US and Canadian border is the longest and friendliest in the world, but the long relationship between the two nations is not without conflict. Today, a history of US-Canadian skirmishes and why a war between neighbors isn’t out of the question. Plus, researchers in Virginia may be turning a long held belief about early America on its head. 

Brady Carlson

It is perhaps the most famous moment in New Hampshire primary history: a packed auditorium, Ronald Reagan, and the moment he said: "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” [sic]

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For decades, some the first ballots in the first in the nation primary have been cast in the same place: the Ballot Room at the Balsams grand resort hotel in Dixville Notch.

Via unlockinghistory.com

The Hilltop School in Somersworth has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Its predecessor was Great Falls High School, the first public high school in New Hampshire constructed in 1849 after a law that cleared the way for municipalities to develop centralized school districts and build schools.

By the 1920s, that building was in disrepair. The school board secured funding for a new school.

Marc Nozell via Flickr / Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/3MY97U

 When it comes to presidential primaries, New Hampshire is always first. But that used to only be part of the slogan printed on bumper stickers and buttons. 

Casey McDermott, NHPR

Dozens of presidential hopefuls – household names and obscure names alike – have been visiting to the New Hampshire statehouse to file for the state’s first in the nation primary.

Candidates have made these trips for decades, but this year, Secretary of State Bill Gardner has added something new to the tradition – or. perhaps we should say, something old.

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Cher, Chuck Norris, and Angelina Jolie all claim to be part Cherokee. Today, we’re asking why so many Americans believe they descend from the Cherokee people - among the most commercially popular Native American tribes. And, another indigenous population that once roamed the American plains…from the cave art of early humans to abandoned mustangs on a New Hampshire farm, explore the resilience, intelligence and fierce sociability of horses.

Courtesy Esta Kramer Collection of American Cookery, Bowdoin College Library

Despite the proliferation of online sources for recipes, cookbooks are still big sellers. They’re inspiring and often beautiful, but are they worth studying? Maybe when you have a massive collection spanning hundreds of years, like the one Bowdoin College acquired this summer.

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Prior to the Civil War, images of war were the stuff of legends and mystery – then came the photographs of Alexander Gardner. Today, the legacy of a photographer who captured the graphic violence of war, and inspired questions about the power and ethics of war photography that are still being discussed today.  Plus, we’ll dive into a collection of more than 700 antique cookbooks to find out what scholars can learn by looking at food - and get a taste for some unusual recipes from back in the day. 

Ventura County Democratic Party / Flickr/CC

From Adams to Kennedy to Bush and Clinton, our guest Stephen Hess says that politics as the “family business” is nothing new. In his book, he profiles eighteen of these political clans: how power passes on, how it can be lost, and why many Americans are so uncomfortable with this concept. 


These days lotteries are everywhere. Walk into most convenience stores and you’ll see scratch tickets on sale. Big Powerball payouts stretching across state lines make headlines, but fifty years ago the idea that lotteries were sinful and contributed to society’s moral decay was more widespread than it is today.

You may be surprised to learn that in the 1960s New Hampshire was the first state to launch a legal lottery. It came after a fight involving politicians of opposing sides, religious moralists, mob members, and the FBI.

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The US says it will open its doors to at least 10,000 refugees fleeing turmoil in Syria, but that doesn’t mean open arms. Today, we’ll learn about the detention process that keeps asylum seekers behind bars for months – even years – in hidden facilities across the country. Plus, a look at the upcoming lineup for this weekend’s New Hampshire Film Festival – including a documentary about the Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley debates that turned televised political debates into blood sport. 

Kent Wang / https://flic.kr/p/tiQF7

On January 16, 1920, Americans took their last legal drink for 13 years. In New York City, gadflies wore black clothes and funeral robes in anticipation of the Volstead Act kicking off Prohibition at midnight. Reporters for the Daily News imagined the last words of John Barleycorn: “I’ve had more friends in private and more foes in public than any other man in America.” 

10.11.15: Sportsball

Oct 9, 2015
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From dreaming of the big leagues to a roller derby revival— today, we enter the wild and wacky world of sports, starting with the origin story of the most successful non-carbonated beverage in the US and a staple of the pro sports sidelines: Gatorade. Plus, for a long time, being a Red Sox fan was to be an outsider, hardcore. That hard living, punk attitude motivated a group of teenagers to produce the most popular, and aggressive, T-shirt in Boston history. We’ll hear the Hollywood-worthy story behind the “Yankees Suck” t-shirt.

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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. Today, from building sewers to standardizing time, we’ll talk about the invisible innovations that got us where we are today. Then, more than 30,000 African elephants are poached every year, mostly out of East Africa. In an effort to understand the illegal ivory trade, a journalist commissioned a tusk made of fake ivory with a GPS tracker inside. We speak with the man behind that tusk.

Nathan Rupert via flickr CC / flic.kr/p/aEtJLV

As schools across the country struggle to meet the new national common core standards, one controversial aspect of education is not part of the curriculum: sex education. On today’s show: the evolving debate around sex ed, and why it’s not strictly an American phenomenon. Plus, from false confessions to inadequate defenses, wrongful convictions can happen for many reasons. We’ll look at faulty eyewitness testimonies, the number one contributing cause of wrongful convictions.

8.17.15: The Fight That Changed TV & The Speechwriter

Aug 17, 2015
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures / http://bit.ly/1MtHysd

The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago is remembered for protests and violence, but one radical decision that came out of that convention has changed the nature of debate in this country. Today, how the face-offs between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley turned television debates into a blood sport. We’ll also speak with a speechwriter for Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor who added “hiking the Appalachian trail” to our lexicon. 

Dennis Jarvis via Flickr CC / bit.ly/1PkMiA1

At 5,525 miles, the US and Canadian border is the longest and friendliest in the world, but the long relationship between the two nations is not without conflict. Today, a history of US-Canadian skirmishes and why a war between neighbors isn’t out of the question. Then, with immigration a focal point in the presidential primary circuit, a commentator takes a tongue in cheek look at the rarely talked about immigration crisis that’s playing out north of the border. Plus, researchers in Virginia may be turning a long held belief about early America on its head. 

Tom Gill via Flickr CC / flic.kr/p/LNxeQ

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.