Retropod

Retropod

www.washingtonpost.com/podcasts/retropod
Retropod is a show for history lovers, featuring stories about the past, rediscovered. Host Mike Rosenwald introduces you to history’s most colorful characters - forgotten heroes, overlooked villains, dreamers, explorers, world changers. Available every weekday morning.


Earthrise
Dec 31, 2019 • 5 min
On Christmas Eve in 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts captured an image that symbolizes hope and inspired environmentalism.
Hair peace. Bed peace.
Dec 30, 2019 • 5 min
On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were a few days into their marriage when they invited the press to join them at their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel.
The jazz queen who chose home over fame
Dec 27, 2019 • 6 min
Jazz singer Ethel Ennis’s voice wowed audiences and won praise from critics. But when she was faced with the opportunity to become a superstar, Ennis chose a different path.
Clara Barton, America’s most famous nurse, broke boundaries to treat Civil War victims
Dec 26, 2019 • 7 min
The nurse who founded the American Red Cross had no formal training in medicine. She tended to countless wounded soldiers.
The military’s famous Santa Tracker began with a wrong number
Dec 25, 2019 • 6 min
In the 1950s, a child trying to call Santa Claus accidentally called NORAD and changed Christmas Eve forever.
The ‘Toy King’ who never aspired to the throne.
Dec 23, 2019 • 6 min
Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus had no idea how big the toy industry would become.
Last Seen Ads
Dec 20, 2019 • 6 min
After the Civil War, formerly enslaved people placed notices in black-owned newspapers across the country to find their loved ones.
How ‘Broadway Joe’ redefined the NFL
Dec 19, 2019 • 6 min
A few days before his team took the field as huge underdogs in Super Bowl III, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath made what was seen as an insane prediction at the time: “The Jets will win Sunday,” he said. “I guarantee it.”
The game show contestant who cheated his way to fame
Dec 18, 2019 • 6 min
In the 1950s, Charles Van Doren, a quiet professor in New York City, became wrapped up in one of the biggest television quiz show scandals in history.
How food found its way into the freezer
Dec 17, 2019 • 6 min
While on a research trip to the Arctic in the early 20th century, scientist Clarence Birdseye — a name you might recognize from the frozen food aisle — made an observation that would go on to change the way we eat.
The day before the Chernobyl disaster
Dec 16, 2019 • 7 min
Disasters don’t just happen. Like anything in life, there’s usually a buildup. In the case of the Chernobyl disaster, the series of failures stretched back more than a decade. But what happened the day before the explosion?
The most difficult job Robert Mueller ever had
Dec 13, 2019 • 6 min
Serving as special counsel is probably only the third hardest job Robert Mueller has held. His life in public service started when he just 23 years old, as a Marine lieutenant in the Vietnam War.
Queen Arawelo
Dec 12, 2019 • 7 min
Growing up in Somalia, a country where stories are handed down through generations, one of the first tales that children are told is about an ancient queen who fought to give women power by castrating men.
The nurse who picked up a rifle
Dec 11, 2019 • 4 min
During World War I, British nurse Flora Sandes put down her nurses bag to fight with the Serbian Army.
George Taliaferro, the first black player drafted to the NFL
Dec 10, 2019 • 6 min
He thought being drafted into the National Football League was so unlikely that he signed with an African American league team. Then, the NFL called.
The summer men rebelled against their shirts
Dec 9, 2019 • 5 min
It doesn’t seem like a big deal today, but 1930s America lived in fear of the male nipple.
America’s forgotten Iranian hostage
Dec 6, 2019 • 5 min
Nine months before the Iran hostage crisis, Kenneth Kraus was held hostage in Iran for eight days.
A bridge of ice at Niagara Falls
Dec 5, 2019 • 5 min
Once upon a time, people walked between the U.S. and Canada over a frozen Niagara Falls. But one day, that all changed forever.
The Soviet officer who stopped World War III
Dec 4, 2019 • 5 min
In 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, trusted his gut and averted a global nuclear catastrophe.
Why isn’t lynching illegal?
Dec 3, 2019 • 6 min
It is one of the worst expressions of racism in American history. And there’s no federal law to prevent it.
A letter from home
Dec 2, 2019 • 3 min
A German woman discovered that her childhood home was stolen from a Jewish family who fled Nazi Germany. Last year, she tracked down the address of one of the children, and wrote him a letter.
The test that changed childbirth
Nov 29, 2019 • 6 min
In the 1950s, Dr. Virginia Apgar created a quick test that nurses have since performed on millions of babies just after birth. She is considered one of the most important figures in modern medicine — a world that almost pushed her away.
A debate that went into extra innings: Can baseballs curve?
Nov 28, 2019 • 7 min
Beginning in the earliest days of baseball, fans, journalists and even physicists disputed whether or not pitchers could make a ball curve.
Benjamin Franklin’s complicated relationship with turkeys
Nov 27, 2019 • 5 min
Benjamin Franklin, the most colorful of America’s Founding Fathers, had a misunderstood, electrical and ultimately homicidal relationship with turkeys.
The cranberry crisis that changed how we see our food
Nov 26, 2019 • 5 min
Weeks before Thanksgiving, 1959, cranberries were declared unsafe to eat. The race was on to save America’s favorite holiday side dish.
How Anita Hill’s testimony led to the “Year of the Woman”
Nov 25, 2019 • 6 min
No women served on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. The ugly Anita Hill hearings changed that.
The man who filmed JFK’s assassination
Nov 22, 2019 • 3 min
For many, memories of that devastating day quickly revert to that silent, flickering sequence captured by Abraham Zapruder. It is as chilling as it is familiar: the approaching convertible, the waves of a crowd about to lose its innocence.
The ‘Night Witches’
Nov 21, 2019 • 4 min
During World War II, around 80 Russian women took to the skies and risked their lives to fight against the Germans.
Robert Morris, the creator of the subpoena
Nov 20, 2019 • 6 min
The history of subpoenas, and the fiery congressional hearings that have captivated Americans for centuries began with a Founding Father raising his hand to say, “Investigate me!”
Lee Harvey Oswald’s final hours before killing Kennedy
Nov 19, 2019 • 3 min
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy devastated the nation. But the day before the shooting was just a normal day. It was particularly calm and uneventful for the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Ketamine in the mainstream
Nov 18, 2019 • 5 min
Once a party drug, ketamine has found its way into modern medicine.
The first ‘Queen of the Air’
Nov 14, 2019 • 6 min
Four years before Amelia Earhart ever got into a plane, Ruth Law was already making a name for herself in the skies.
Judy Garland and the long history of ‘Me Too’ in Hollywood
Nov 13, 2019 • 6 min
Sexual harassment has been existed in showbiz as long as there have been bright lights.
Jim Crow and the rise of blackface
Nov 12, 2019 • 6 min
Back in the 1830s, Jim Crow wasn’t yet a symbol of inequality. He was a fictional character in minstrel shows who, to entertain his audiences, performed in blackface.
The policeman who arrested a president
Nov 11, 2019 • 6 min
After receiving complaints about carriages driving too fast, Washington D.C. policeman William H. West arrested a presidential speed demon.
A history of the U.S.-Mexico border
Nov 8, 2019 • 7 min
For decades, the boundary between Mexico and the United States was little more than an imaginary line in the sand.
The godmother of the open office
Nov 7, 2019 • 6 min
If you work in an office without offices, with just about everyone working in a large spare space full of stylish desks, straight lines and papers stored in a credenza, then you have met Florence Knoll Bassett.
The Wicked Bible
Nov 6, 2019 • 5 min
A full year after the King James Bible was printed in 1631, people discovered an error.
The Confederate spy who evaded capture
Nov 5, 2019 • 8 min
After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, John Surratt traveled across three continents, wore disguises and used fake names for nearly two years to escape authorities.
Pinball’s sordid past
Nov 4, 2019 • 6 min
Pinball was once so vilified that it was banned in cities across the United States.
The last person to step foot on the moon
Nov 1, 2019 • 5 min
When Eugene Cernan walked on the moon, he didn’t know he’d be the last astronaut to make the journey.
A history of hats in the House
Oct 31, 2019 • 6 min
In the early days of the House, some congresspeople thought hats had no place atop the heads of representatives debating the great issues of the day. Hats, they argued, weren’t dignified.
Tenure for life
Oct 30, 2019 • 7 min
When Alexander Hamilton argued in favor of lifetime tenures for Supreme Court justices, he probably didn’t foresee them living past their prime.
How Lego took over the toy world
Oct 29, 2019 • 7 min
Lego started as a company that made wooden toys, and grew into an empire of plastic building blocks.
The researcher whose rats predicted the Internet
Oct 28, 2019 • 7 min
John Calhoun’s rodent experiments revolutionized the way we think about social behavior and the impact of growing populations.
A brief history of presidents visiting troops in combat
Oct 25, 2019 • 6 min
Presidents throughout history have visited battlefields to better grasp conditions, reverse public doubt and signal that the country took war efforts seriously.
William Howard Taft’s housekeeper kept track of his weight
Oct 24, 2019 • 4 min
White House maid Elizabeth Jaffray not only cleaned up after presidents, she had an amazing insight into their appetites.
In 1939, the ‘American Hitler’ took the stage at Madison Square Garden
Oct 23, 2019 • 5 min
Fritz Kuhn was the leader of the pro-Nazi group known as the German American Bund. He was a hero to his audience, and a scourge on the world to most others.
The astronomer who took gay rights to the Supreme Court
Oct 22, 2019 • 5 min
After being fired from his job for being gay, Frank Kameny took his battle for equality to the nation’s highest court.
The first campus shooting
Oct 21, 2019 • 4 min
A professor at The University of Virginia was fatally shot by a student in 1840.
The origins of the Unknown Soldier
Oct 18, 2019 • 6 min
The story of how the anonymous soldier came to rest inside the famous tomb is almost as unknown as his identity.
America and warfare were never the same after World War I
Oct 16, 2019 • 4 min
Along with staggering death tolls, the “Great War” generated memorable literature, geopolitical upheaval, hope, disillusion, the Russian Revolution and the seeds of World War II.
The campus massacre before Kent State
Oct 15, 2019 • 5 min
The first mass police shooting on a U.S. college campus happened two years before the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University.
Mark Twain’s complicated relationship with the typewriter
Oct 14, 2019 • 5 min
Mark Twain first laid eyes on a “newfangled typing machine,” as he called it, sometime in the early 1870s.
The presidential pardon the country never forgot
Oct 11, 2019 • 5 min
When Gerald Ford took over the presidency after Richard Nixon’s resignation, he soon made a controversial choice: he pardoned Nixon.
How the Greeks once used a lottery system to select government officials
Oct 10, 2019 • 5 min
Some believed that a lottery was more democratic than a vote.
Mary Ann Van Hoof and her Marian apparitions
Oct 9, 2019 • 6 min
In 1950, Mary Ann Van Hoof gathered an estimated 100,000 people to see the Virgin Mary on a farm in Necedah, Wisconsin.
Close encounters with the Capitol’s Demon Cat
Oct 8, 2019 • 4 min
From the mid-1800s to well into the 20th century, the Capitol’s Demon Cat was the top dog of Washington ghost stories.
New York’s mad bomber
Oct 7, 2019 • 7 min
In 1956, New York City’s bomb squad used criminal profiling to catch a terrorist known as “The Mad Bomber.”
The unstoppable Fannie Lou Hamer
Oct 4, 2019 • 5 min
Civil rights crusader Fannie Lou Hamer rivaled Martin Luther King Jr. in her command of audiences.
The photographer and the busboy
Oct 3, 2019 • 5 min
Photographer Boris Yaro shot the haunting photograph of Bobby Kennedy lying fatally wounded in the arms of Juan Romero, a busboy.
The time America invaded Britain
Oct 2, 2019 • 4 min
In 1777, Captain John Paul Jones hatched a plan to take the American Revolution to Britain’s shores.
Abraham Lincoln says he owes everything to his ‘angel mother’ and ‘mama’
Oct 1, 2019 • 5 min
President Abraham Lincoln had two loving and supportive mothers in his lifetime. The second helped him cope with the tragic loss of the first.
The search for the anonymous author of a 1996 political novel
Sep 30, 2019 • 5 min
Before an unnamed senior official in the Trump administration published the opinion piece, “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration” in the New York Times, another mysterious anonymous author lit up Washington.
Woodrow Wilson’s secret letters to another woman
Sep 27, 2019 • 5 min
Family and friends had known about the president’s intimate relationship with Mary Peck for years, but whispers about their involvement were growing.
The body of Emmett Till
Sep 26, 2019 • 4 min
Emmett Till’s mother opened his casket and sparked the civil rights movement.
The origins of the Waterloo teeth
Sep 25, 2019 • 4 min
More than 50,000 soldiers died during the Battle of Waterloo, but their teeth lived on.
In the 1850s, navigating Ice Alley was deadly for ships
Sep 24, 2019 • 5 min
Despite warnings of icebergs, the John Rutledge set sail from Liverpool, England, to New York.
How the teddy bear was born
Sep 23, 2019 • 4 min
In the fall of 1902, a year into his presidency, President Teddy Roosevelt set off to Mississippi for a bear-hunting vacation. It ended differently than planned.
The Saturday Night Massacre
Sep 20, 2019 • 4 min
The one night that changed President Nixon’s fate has stuck with us as a reminder of the limits of presidential power.
How a solar eclipse made Albert Einstein famous
Sep 19, 2019 • 4 min
It may be hard to believe, but one single event rocketed Einstein to fame.
How a renovation made the Supreme Court a friendlier place
Sep 18, 2019 • 4 min
One simple change to how the Supreme Court bench was designed made a world of difference to how the justices communicated.
The heroine of Lime Rock Lighthouse
Sep 17, 2019 • 3 min
Ida Lewis saved as many as 25 people during her service at the lighthouse. But her deeds have largely been forgotten.
The assassin who wore braids and killed Nazis
Sep 13, 2019 • 5 min
Freddie Oversteegen was 14 when she joined the Dutch resistance.
Colonel Blood, the scoundrel who tried to steal Great Britain’s crown jewels
Sep 12, 2019 • 3 min
Thomas Blood had somewhat of a shady past. According to Ireland’s History magazine, he had a reputation for espionage and conducting terrorist campaigns — though many of his plans were foiled just in time.
The rookie pilot who was ready to give her life on Sept. 11
Sep 11, 2019 • 5 min
Heather Penney was among the first female combat pilots in the country. On Sept. 11, 2001, she got a mission: Bring down the fourth hijacked plane hurtling towards Washington.
Between Lincoln and Washington, only one was a great poet
Sep 10, 2019 • 4 min
Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln wrote poetry. But only one had a way with words.
The Nazi stone
Sep 9, 2019 • 4 min
A mysterious stone memorial was found in 2006 in Washington, D.C. But who placed a memorial to Nazi spies on government property? And why?
Paul Jennings, the former slave who disputed a legend from history
Sep 6, 2019 • 4 min
According to James Madison’s Virginia mansion Montpelier, Paul Jennings’ account reveals, “how the racial and gender hierarchies of the time complicate the way we understand roles in historic events.”
Winnie and Nelson Mandela’s marriage survived prison but not freedom
Sep 5, 2019 • 4 min
Their 38-year marriage endured his incarceration and hers.
The dark history of the pill
Sep 4, 2019 • 4 min
A group of poor women in Puerto Rico were the first test subjects for the birth control pill. Were they guinea pigs or pioneers?
Were the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler friends?
Sep 3, 2019 • 3 min
Was the Duke of Windsor a Nazi sympathizer? Did he plot to dethrone his brother, King George VI? Did he really suggest more German bombings of Britain might end World War II?
The day anti-Vietnam War protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon
Sep 2, 2019 • 3 min
In October 1967, antiwar protesters announced that they would march en masse to the front steps of the Pentagon. and levitate it. And then they would try to levitate it.
The worst presidents
Aug 30, 2019 • 5 min
Besides President Trump, whom do scholars scorn the most?
The surprise hurricane that devastated the Florida Keys
Aug 29, 2019 • 4 min
In 1935, the Florida Keys ignored the threat of a looming hurricane. When the Category 5 storm made landfall, it left a wake of death and destruction.
Being a maverick almost stopped John McCain from becoming a public servant
Aug 28, 2019 • 4 min
At the Naval Academy, McCain was in a group called the “Bad Bunch” as he rebelled against his father’s expectations.
LBJ’s political bombshell
Aug 27, 2019 • 5 min
By 1968, things were going badly for President Lyndon B. Johnson. Morale around the Vietnam War was sinking, and in Washington, political sharks were circling.
The most romantic day
Aug 26, 2019 • 3 min
All over the country, couples rushed to Las Vegas to get married. The demand for quickie weddings was at a fever pitch. But it wasn’t Cupid’s arrow causing the frenzy. It was the Vietnam War.
The French aviators who almost beat Charles Lindbergh
Aug 23, 2019 • 4 min
In 1927, the world watched as two French aviators attempted the world’s first transatlantic flight.
The photographer who helped end child labor in America
Aug 22, 2019 • 5 min
Lewis Hine posed as a Bible salesman or machinery photographer to expose the hardships of child labor.
The performance that saved Johnny Cash’s career
Aug 21, 2019 • 4 min
In a year of extraordinary, chaotic moments this was a hopeful one - a beat-up country music star recording an album live at a troubled maximum security prison in California.
When Olympic silver beats gold
Aug 20, 2019 • 4 min
Ski jumping involves flying more than 800 feet in the air and then landing on two feet, without dying. Where on earth did this sport come from?
Meet Paul Manafort’s century-old forefather, who also liked fancy suits
Aug 19, 2019 • 4 min
Samuel Cutler Ward, also known as the “King of the Lobby,” is credited with shaping the craft of lobbying. And like lobbyist and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, he also had some seriously expensive tastes.
How Hollywood’s first major blockbuster revived the KKK
Aug 16, 2019 • 4 min
“The Birth of a Nation” depicted life after the Civil War in a way that glorified Klansmen. The film and its cultural impact led one man to conclude that the time was right to bring back the Klu Klux Klan.
The biscuit tin that protected the crown jewels
Aug 15, 2019 • 3 min
It’s World War II, and you’re King George VI of England. You fear a Nazi invasion of England could come at any moment. How do you protect the crown jewels? Not even Queen Elizabeth II knew how her dad did it - until recently.
Rosie the Riveter isn’t who you think she is
Aug 14, 2019 • 4 min
An American in the 1940s would not recognize the woman from the “We Can Do It!” poster as Rosie the Riveter.
Reagan’s most historic speech took a few years to make an impact
Aug 13, 2019 • 3 min
When President Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” it was not seen as a historic moment. It took the actual fall of the wall to resurrect the speech and drill the quote into the nation’s political consciousness.
How the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds began
Aug 12, 2019 • 5 min
The anti-Semitic conspiracy theories surrounding the Rothschild family date all the way back to The Battle of Waterloo.
The first congresswoman’s vote
Aug 9, 2019 • 5 min
In April 1917, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, faced an agonizing choice: should she, or should she not, vote for the United States to enter World War I?
The day the nation’s capital welcomed the KKK
Aug 8, 2019 • 5 min
In 1925, 30,000 Klansmen descended on Washington, D.C. The city cheered their arrival.
The man and the coconut that saved JFK
Aug 7, 2019 • 4 min
William Liebenow rescued John F. Kennedy from an island filled with coconuts.
The first daughters
Aug 6, 2019 • 4 min
Ivanka Trump might be the only first daughter in American history to score a West Wing office, but she’s not the first presidential daughter to wield power in the White House.
The time a senator won an Emmy for grilling witnesses at a hearing
Aug 5, 2019 • 5 min
In 1951, a televised Senate hearing caught America’s attention.
The fact and fiction of Prince Philip
Aug 2, 2019 • 4 min
The most recent British royal wedding puts all eyes on the Windsor family. But perhaps no royal is as controversial as Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip.
What Operation Pied Piper taught us about family separations
Aug 1, 2019 • 5 min
Millions of British children were evacuated from London and other cities to escape the horrors of war. But the family separations seemed to impart long-term trauma that was in many cases as severe as if they had stayed behind and faced the bombs.
The teen who tied a Virginia election
Jul 31, 2019 • 3 min
In 1971, Stephen Burns was 18 years old and a newly minted voter. He was so jazzed to be a part of the Democratic process.
The books the presidents read
Jul 30, 2019 • 4 min
People have long been fascinated by the books presidents choose to read. But how much do reading habits actually reveal about a president?
How God became part of the pledge
Jul 29, 2019 • 4 min
For over 50 years, the phrase “under God” was not a part of the Pledge of Allegiance. One sermon changed that.
How Harry S. Truman went from being a racist to desegregating the military
Jul 26, 2019 • 6 min
When Harry Truman became president in 1945, Southern members of Congress were delighted. They thought he’d be sympathetic to segregationists. He proved them wrong.
The U.S. government recruited black men to watch them die
Jul 25, 2019 • 4 min
The Tuskegee syphilis experiment is a horrific piece of American history.
The femme fatale
Jul 24, 2019 • 4 min
For the past 100 years, Mata Hari has been revered as the quintessential glamorous spy. But the real Mata Hari was much more complicated.
The congressman who shot a waiter
Jul 23, 2019 • 4 min
A hungry congressman didn’t get the breakfast he ordered. So he shot the waiter.
The children’s crusade
Jul 22, 2019 • 4 min
The movement organized by survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., is not the first time that kids have taken a stand. H
Introducing Moonrise
Jul 19, 2019 • 5 min
Host Lillian Cunningham’s next podcast explores the real story of why we went to the moon — a darker, but truer story than the one you’ve heard before. Listen to this trailer, and subscribe on your favorite podcast app or at washingtonpost.com/moonrise
The time Truman met with Stalin and it went well
Jul 18, 2019 • 5 min
Back in 1941, a get-together that should have been fraught with uneasiness didn’t turn out that way, which is surprising given the participants: President Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin.
Mrs. Graham
Jul 17, 2019 • 4 min
Katherine Graham’s leadership in the decision to release the Pentagon Papers was the subject of the Stephen Spielberg film “The Post.” But it was her leadership during the pressman’s strike in 1975 that is perhaps the most gripping moment of her life.
The storied past of Alderson federal women’s prison
Jul 16, 2019 • 4 min
The Alderson Federal Prison Camp has a history filled with powerful women. Some pushed for the prison to be built. Others served time there.
The deaf men who helped NASA send humans to space
Jul 15, 2019 • 4 min
In a largely forgotten experiment, a group of students from Gallaudet University spent years helping NASA understand the mechanisms of motion sickness and how to prevent it.
The first shark attacks
Jul 12, 2019 • 4 min
For most of American history, no one was scared of sharks. One week—and one shark—changed people’s opinions of the marine creatures.
The oldest surviving banjo recording
Jul 11, 2019 • 5 min
Charles Asbury’s digitized songs serve as a time capsule to the music of the 19th century.
The Jedwabne massacre
Jul 10, 2019 • 3 min
Raw questions of complicity versus compulsion have surrounded the 1941 murders of a Polish village’s Jewish residents.
The long-lost ‘Laws of Baseball’
Jul 9, 2019 • 4 min
On display in Washington, D.C. are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and another document that details a fundamental institution in American life: baseball.
The Quaker abolitionist who was disowned for condemning slave owners
Jul 8, 2019 • 6 min
Benjamin Lay wrote one of the first treatises against slavery in Colonial America, a time when many prosperous Pennsylvania Quakers were slave owners. But the Quakers disowned Lay for speaking out.
Meet Yvonne Burke, the first congresswoman to give birth in office
Jul 5, 2019 • 3 min
Sixty years after Congress welcomed its first woman, it welcomed its first baby.
Thomas Jefferson’s last letter
Jul 4, 2019 • 3 min
Somehow, in the depths of his personal misery towards the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson once again found his powerful way with words.
The epic bender that launched America
Jul 3, 2019 • 3 min
George Washington and his fellow partiers racked up a hefty bill—$15,000 in today’s currency—celebrating the completion of the Constitution.
The time we thought an asteroid might kill us all
Jul 2, 2019 • 3 min
In 1998, the world briefly panicked over an asteroid that seemed headed straight for Earth.
Suzanne Lenglen, the first goddess of tennis
Jul 1, 2019 • 3 min
Suzanne Lenglen was physically ferocious, always fashionable and a disrupter of convention.
The first pride parade
Jun 28, 2019 • 3 min
The very first pride parade was held in 1964 and was a bit calmer than what we think of today.
The rainless flood that destroyed a city
Jun 27, 2019 • 4 min
In 1868, Ellicott City, Md. flooded. The lack of rain made the natural disaster totally bizarre and unexpected.
How Eleanor Roosevelt invented the modern idea of a first lady
Jun 26, 2019 • 4 min
Eleanor Roosevelt held news conferences just for female reporters. The men were not impressed.
The complicated story of Linda Brown and the fight for desegregated schools
Jun 25, 2019 • 3 min
Linda Brown and her father Oliver Brown are heroes of the civil rights movement. The backstory of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education is more complicated than what you learned in school.
The origins of the National Rifle Association
Jun 24, 2019 • 4 min
When the NRA was founded in 1871, its primary concern was not gun rights or the Second Amendment.
How a textile shortage led to the invention of the bikini
Jun 21, 2019 • 4 min
Designer Louis Réard left automotive engineering to work in his mother’s lingerie business. He decided to compete with another design to create the world’s smallest swimsuit.
The man who won World War II
Jun 20, 2019 • 4 min
Andrew Higgins wasn’t in the Army. He wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a wild and wily genius, a tough, crafty, businessman. And he built the built the boats that brought troops ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Oregon was America’s first and only state to begin as ‘whites-only’
Jun 19, 2019 • 5 min
Oregon’s original constitution banned black people from the state, and the law stayed in the constitution for well over 100 years.
Publishers hated ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ and Madeleine L’Engle never forgot the rejections
Jun 18, 2019 • 3 min
‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle said she received 26 rejection letters from publishers.
This security guard discovered the Watergate break-in, but nobody remembers him
Jun 17, 2019 • 3 min
The man who called the police on the Watergate burglars never received the credit he deserved.
A history of extreme makeovers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Jun 14, 2019 • 4 min
When the White House was built over 200 years ago, it lacked certain modern conveniences. A hodgepodge of improvements have been added over the years.
The unlikely start of the Boy Scout movement
Jun 13, 2019 • 4 min
The Boy Scout movement began 110 years ago on a tiny island just off the southern coast of England.
Eartha Kitt confronted the first lady and it nearly ruined her career
Jun 12, 2019 • 5 min
At a White House luncheon, actress Eartha Kitt would not let the president or the first lady avoid the issue of the Vietnam War. She paid a heavy price for her boldness.
The ‘temporary insanity’ legal defense started with an affair
Jun 11, 2019 • 4 min
If you love gossip, drama and D.C. politics — this story is the gift that keeps on giving.
Eisenhower’s famous speech to U.S. troops the day before D-Day
Jun 10, 2019 • 4 min
On the day before D-Day, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech to the troops that totally masked how nervous he actually was.
The painter who became the CIA’s master of disguise
Jun 7, 2019 • 10 min
The spy business is all about masking the truth. One CIA agent’s deceptions and sham identities were so enterprising that he earned the nickname “Master of Disguise.”
The ax that killed Leon Trotsky
Jun 6, 2019 • 9 min
Joseph Stalin wanted his political rival dead. When bullets didn’t do the job, his intelligence service tried something even more gruesome.
That time the CIA stole a Russian submarine
Jun 5, 2019 • 9 min
When a Russian sub sank at the height of the Cold War, the CIA got help from Howard Hughes and created a fictitious mining operation to snag the vessel at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The pistols that almost fell from the sky
Jun 4, 2019 • 5 min
During World War II, U.S. intelligence operatives devised a plan to airdrop one-shot handguns, nicknamed the Liberator pistol, to allies in Europe in hopes of ending the war quickly.
The rat that helped win the Cold War
Jun 3, 2019 • 7 min
In the first of a weeklong series of episodes about spies, subterfuge and intelligence, a look at how the CIA used dead rats to send secret messages in the former Soviet Union.
The test that changed childbirth
May 31, 2019 • 6 min
In the 1950s, Dr. Virginia Apgar created a quick test that nurses have since performed on millions of babies just after birth. She is considered one of the most important figures in modern medicine — a world that almost pushed her away.
Amid rising tension between the U.S. and Cuba, Hemingway’s widow went on a literary rescue mission
May 30, 2019 • 8 min
When author Ernest Hemingway killed himself in 1961, the political strain between the United States and Cuba was escalating. In the midst of that struggle, Hemingway’s widow scrambled to recover the author’s work from his beloved home in Cuba.
Frank Lloyd Wright tried to create a perfect house for an imperfect world
May 29, 2019 • 9 min
In 1939, an unknown copy editor from Washington, D.C., begged famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design his family a home. The result was a modern house that stood decades ahead of its time.
Rising from ruin: The many rebuilds of Notre Dame
May 28, 2019 • 4 min
The world watched Notre Dame as it burned in April. But the cathedral has endured a lot in its 856 years.
A debate that went into extra innings: Can baseballs curve?
May 24, 2019 • 7 min
Beginning in the earliest days of baseball, fans, journalists and even physicists disputed whether or not pitchers could make a ball curve.
How food found its way into the freezer
May 23, 2019 • 5 min
While on a research trip to the Arctic in the early 20th century, scientist Clarence Birdseye — a name you might recognize from the frozen food aisle — made an observation that would go on to change the way we eat.
The man who helped create the first measles vaccine didn’t vaccinate his own son
May 22, 2019 • 5 min
In the 1950s, millions of people suffered from measles every year. David Edmonston, an 11-year-old student, became the cure.
Clara Barton, America’s most famous nurse, broke boundaries to treat Civil War victims
May 21, 2019 • 6 min
The nurse who founded the American Red Cross had no formal training in medicine. She tended to countless wounded soldiers.
Why Naval Academy students climb a greased up obelisk every year
May 20, 2019 • 4 min
Every year, freshmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis take part in an annual tradition where they must climb a 21 foot high obelisk covered in vegetable shortening and place a hat at the very top.
The forgotten pioneers of the first American utopia
May 17, 2019 • 5 min
More than a decade ago, bestselling historian David McCullough stumbled upon an important name from the past that even he’d never come across before. What he discovered was the story of pioneering American idealists.
The game show contestant who cheated his way to fame
May 16, 2019 • 6 min
In the 1950s, Charles Van Doren, a quiet professor in New York City, became wrapped up in one of the biggest television quiz show scandals in history.
The unlikely beginning of paint-by-number
May 15, 2019 • 5 min
Paint-by-number was a national phenomenon. And then, the paint sets disappeared from the shelves.
The jazz queen who chose home over fame
May 14, 2019 • 6 min
Jazz singer Ethel Ennis’s voice wowed audiences and won praise from critics. But when she was faced with the opportunity to become a superstar, Ennis chose a different path.
The most difficult job Robert Mueller ever had
May 13, 2019 • 6 min
Serving as special counsel is probably only the third hardest job Robert Mueller has held. His life in public service started when he just 23 years old, as a Marine lieutenant in the Vietnam War.
Anna Jarvis spent years fighting to create Mother’s Day, then lost everything trying to protect it
May 10, 2019 • 3 min
Anna Jarvis would absolutely hate what Mother’s Day has become.
John Brown’s prophecy
May 9, 2019 • 3 min
Abolitionist John Brown made a prophecy before he was executed.
The books presidents read
May 8, 2019 • 4 min
People have long been fascinated by the books presidents choose to read. But how much do reading habits actually reveal about a president?
The original Alcoholics Anonymous book was auctioned for millions, but its author was never paid
May 7, 2019 • 4 min
The original manuscript was auctioned off for $2.4 million to an NFL owner, after almost a year of legal wrangling.
The invention of sarin
May 6, 2019 • 3 min
Weevils, a voracious beetle found in fields and orchards, were the original target of sarin gas.
May the Fourth be with you
May 3, 2019 • 5 min
Mark Hamill, the actor known for playing Luke Skywalker, shares stories from Star Wars history.
Need a job? Ask Ulysses S. Grant.
May 2, 2019 • 3 min
While President Grant had an impressive resume on the battlefield, he was known to be a patsy when it came to helping job hunters. People used to walk right into the White House and ask the president to find them a job.
Meet the Press
May 1, 2019 • 3 min
At the beginning of the television age, “Meet the Press” dented the dominance of newspapers and thrilled news junkies with the power of live broadcasting.
The mother who made George Washington miserable
Apr 30, 2019 • 4 min
George and his mother had an unusual relationship for the 1700s.
The Sullivan brothers
Apr 29, 2019 • 3 min
Five brothers fought and died together on the same ship during World War II. Their final resting place was discovered in 2018.
Elaine Brown, the first and only woman to lead the Black Panther Party
Apr 26, 2019 • 3 min
Elaine Brown’s takeover in 1974 was a pivotal moment for a woman in the black power movement. Although women had been a dynamic force for social and racial justice, they had often been overshadowed by men.
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day was once just for daughters
Apr 25, 2019 • 2 min
Mike is joined by a special guest to talk about how Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day began.
These guys were college jocks, and then became presidents of the United States
Apr 24, 2019 • 4 min
We dug through The Washington Post’s archives and consulted the Pro Football Hall of Fame to bring you a rundown of the best presidential ballers.
The truth is out there
Apr 23, 2019 • 4 min
Area 51’s secrets may not be alien in nature, but that doesn’t make it any less mysterious.
One broadcast helped turn Americans against the Vietnam War
Apr 22, 2019 • 4 min
Walter Cronkite’s calm but authoritative voice carried so much weight that in 1968 one single news report helped persuade the American public that we weren’t winning the war in Vietnam.
Egg Roll
Apr 19, 2019 • 3 min
One day a year, the White House grounds are turned over to kids for the Easter Egg Roll.
Chillicothe, Missouri: The town that invented sliced bread
Apr 18, 2019 • 3 min
The town of Chillicothe, Missouri, discovered they have a surprising claim to history: the creation of sliced bread.
The black power protest that shook the world
Apr 17, 2019 • 2 min
At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, one of the most iconic moments of that chaotic year unfolded on television screens around the world.
History’s most fascinating misquote
Apr 16, 2019 • 3 min
The Apollo 13 astronauts never said “Houston we have a problem.” Here’s why you think they did.
Hate the IRS? Blame Abraham Lincoln.
Apr 12, 2019 • 3 min
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln was in a financial bind. Also, he was in a war. To raise money, he pushed for and won passage of an income tax and, a year or so later, established the Internal Revenue Bureau to collect what was owed.
The Mouth of the South
Apr 12, 2019 • 5 min
Martha Mitchell was the wife of President Nixon’s attorney general. Nixon blamed Mitchell for Watergate.
Hair peace. Bed peace.
Apr 11, 2019 • 5 min
On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were a few days into their marriage when they invited the press to join them at their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel.
Queen Arawelo
Apr 10, 2019 • 6 min
Growing up in Somalia, a country where stories are handed down through generations, one of the first tales that children are told is about an ancient queen who fought to give women power by castrating men.
The man who killed Bonnie and Clyde
Apr 9, 2019 • 6 min
It was April of 1934. The multi-state crime spree of Bonnie and Clyde came to an end in an ambush on a winding country road in Louisiana. The man who finally hunted them down was Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, a legendary lawman from the Wild West.
Ketamine in the mainstream
Apr 5, 2019 • 5 min
Once a party drug, ketamine has found its way into modern medicine.
From handsaws to parades: D.C.’s cherry blossom trees weren’t always beloved
Apr 5, 2019 • 6 min
Over one million people attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year. But the cherry blossom trees, and Japanese culture, were not always embraced in the United States.
The day before the Chernobyl disaster
Apr 4, 2019 • 6 min
Disasters don’t just happen. Like anything in life, there’s usually a buildup. In the case of the Chernobyl disaster, the series of failures stretched back more than a decade. But what happened the day before the explosion?
Last Seen Ads
Apr 3, 2019 • 6 min
After the Civil War, formerly enslaved people placed notices in black-owned newspapers across the country to find their loved ones.
Earthrise
Apr 2, 2019 • 4 min
On Christmas Eve in 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts captured an image that symbolizes hope and inspired environmentalism.
George Taliaferro, the first black player drafted to the NFL
Apr 1, 2019 • 5 min
He thought being drafted into the National Football League was so unlikely that he signed with an African American league team. Then, the NFL called.
The first ‘Queen of the Air’
Mar 29, 2019 • 5 min
Four years before Amelia Earhart ever got into a plane, Ruth Law was already making a name for herself in the skies.
A spy in the Confederate White House
Mar 28, 2019 • 6 min
During the American Civil War, a former slave smuggled secrets from the Confederate President to help the North to victory. Her name was Mary Bowser.
The nurse who picked up a rifle
Mar 27, 2019 • 4 min
During World War I, British nurse Flora Sandes put down her nurses bag to fight with the Serbian Army.
The ‘Night Witches’
Mar 26, 2019 • 4 min
During World War II, around 80 Russian women took to the skies and risked their lives to fight against the Germans.
The extraordinary life of Civil War veteran Albert Cashier
Mar 25, 2019 • 7 min
On August 6, 1862, a shy young man from Belvidere, Illinois, signed up to fight for the North in the Civil War. His name was Albert Cashier.
The first black senator and America’s brief biracial democracy
Mar 22, 2019 • 5 min
Hiram Rhodes Revels came to the Senate after the Civil War in a shining moment of triumph — a black man taking over the seat once held by Jefferson Davis. It didn’t last.
Why isn’t lynching illegal?
Mar 21, 2019 • 6 min
It is one of the worst expressions of racism in American history. And there’s no federal law to prevent it.
Robert Morris, the creator of the subpoena
Mar 20, 2019 • 6 min
The history of subpoenas, and the fiery congressional hearings that have captivated Americans for centuries began with a Founding Father raising his hand to say, “Investigate me!”
Judy Garland and the long history of ‘Me Too’ in Hollywood
Mar 19, 2019 • 5 min
Sexual harassment has been existed in showbiz as long as there have been bright lights.
A rich piece of scandal
Mar 18, 2019 • 5 min
In the 19th century, publications both reputable and scandalous routinely blackmailed society figures caught in compromising circumstances.
The godfather of bracketology
Mar 15, 2019 • 4 min
Some 50 million people are projected to fill out a March Madness bracket this year. As you finish filling out yours, you might want to tip your pencil and say thanks to the late and loud Staten Island bar owner Jody Haggerty.
To ban a ‘Mockingbird’
Mar 14, 2019 • 4 min
Harper Lee’s classic novel has been causing controversy for as long as its been in print. Here’s a look at the history of banning “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The history of epic North Korean insults
Mar 13, 2019 • 3 min
North Korea has long been a superpower when it comes verbal attacks.
Special delivery!
Mar 12, 2019 • 2 min
There’s one thing that you can’t have delivered anymore that was totally normal to send by mail in the early 1900s.
Why Thurgood Marshall asked an ex-Klan member to help him make Supreme Court history
Mar 11, 2019 • 3 min
Thurgood Marshall, the first African American member of the Supreme Court, took the constitutional oath of office from Hugo Black, a white associate justice who had once been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
The glass ceiling
Mar 8, 2019 • 3 min
In 1978, Marilyn Loden gave new meaning to an image women have fought for decades.
The woman behind Lisa Ben
Mar 7, 2019 • 4 min
Edythe Eyde, also known by her pen name Lisa Ben, was a visionary who fought to make lesbians visible in pop culture decades before most others had the guts to do the same.
The night America burned
Mar 6, 2019 • 3 min
The deadliest wildfire in U.S. history wasn’t in California.
Was Mary Todd Lincoln a leaker?
Mar 5, 2019 • 4 min
President Abraham Lincoln had to worry about the first lady being a leaker, and it was quite a scandal.
The forbidden question
Mar 4, 2019 • 3 min
If the order for a nuclear attack is issued, the soldiers operating the launch machine have no choice but to fire. Or do they?
The best birthday card ever
Mar 1, 2019 • 2 min
In 1926, the United States received a birthday card signed by 5.5 million Polish people.
The houses built by slaves
Feb 28, 2019 • 3 min
Buildings that stand as symbols of American democracy - the White House, Mount Vernon and Monticello, to name a few - were erected with the labor of those who were not free.
How are you, Grandmama?
Feb 27, 2019 • 3 min
A dog and a cadaver deserve credit for their contributions to the invention of the telephone.
The crooked picture
Feb 26, 2019 • 4 min
Jesse James, the most famous outlaw in history, was eventually foiled by a picture hanging crooked on a wall.
The Limping Lady
Feb 25, 2019 • 3 min
President Trump made history when he nominated a woman to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But while a woman leading the CIA was once unthinkable, female spies have made enormous, overlooked contributions in espionage.
And the winner is…
Feb 22, 2019 • 5 min
Oscars night is probably the one moment around the world when people become really interested in envelopes.
What hath God wrought?
Feb 21, 2019 • 4 min
The history of social media began in 1844, when Samuel F.B. Morse sent a message from Washington to Baltimore. It said, “What hath God wrought?”
The ice queen
Feb 20, 2019 • 4 min
Sonja Henie won three Olympic gold medals and 10 world championships, and turned her star power into as career as one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. Meet figure skating’s first megastar.
The electric rivalry
Feb 19, 2019 • 3 min
To understand the gruesome history of the death penalty, it is essential to comprehend how badly Thomas Edison wanted to zap George Westinghouse.
All the Presidents’ Ghosts
Feb 18, 2019 • 3 min
Whether you believe in this stuff or not, the many accounts that have spilled out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two centuries give ghosts an undeniable place in the country’s history.
The spy plane
Feb 15, 2019 • 4 min
Historians and national security analysts have been re-examining one particular forgotten moment in the history of U.S. and North Korea conflict.
Before the Lovings, another interracial couple fought to marry
Feb 14, 2019 • 3 min
The Kinneys married in Washington, D.C., in 1874. Then, they were arrested back home in Virginia for violating the state’s laws. They fought the ruling in higher and higher courts but never won the right to stay married in their home state.
Dr. Spock
Feb 13, 2019 • 4 min
Dr. Spock - not the guy from Star Trek - was at one time America’s most beloved pediatrician. A whole generation of children was raised on his medical advice. But not even his popularity could save him from being indicted by the federal government.
The first female Marine
Feb 12, 2019 • 3 min
During World War I, the Marines Corps needed help on the home front while men were fighting overseas. Opha May Johnson was the first woman in line.
Philadelphia’s plumbing revolution: wood pipes
Feb 11, 2019 • 3 min
In 1812, Philadelphia was outfitted with the latest in plumbing technology - a network of wooden pipes to carry water throughout the city.
Jim Crow and the rise of blackface
Feb 8, 2019 • 5 min
Back in the 1830s, Jim Crow wasn’t yet a symbol of inequality. He was a fictional character in minstrel shows who, to entertain his audiences, performed in blackface.
The Wicked Bible
Feb 7, 2019 • 4 min
A full year after the King James Bible was printed in 1631, people discovered an error.
How the State of the Union went from speech to spectacle
Feb 6, 2019 • 6 min
The president’s State of the Union started as a simple report on the condition on the nation; overtime, the address became a moment to rally Congress and the public.
Winifred Stanley, a forgotten equal pay pioneer
Feb 5, 2019 • 3 min
The woman who first introduced equal pay legislation in Congress had to fight to be taken seriously — and often failed.
The Soviet officer who stopped World War III
Feb 4, 2019 • 4 min
In 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, trusted his gut and averted a global nuclear catastrophe.
How ‘Broadway Joe’ redefined the NFL
Feb 1, 2019 • 6 min
A few days before his team took the field as huge underdogs in Super Bowl III, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath made what was seen as an insane prediction at the time: “The Jets will win Sunday,” he said. “I guarantee it.”
The godmother of the open office
Jan 31, 2019 • 5 min
If you work in an office without offices, with just about everyone working in a large spare space full of stylish desks, straight lines and papers stored in a credenza, then you have met Florence Knoll Bassett.
The Confederate spy who evaded capture
Jan 30, 2019 • 7 min
After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, John Surratt traveled across three continents, wore disguises and used fake names for nearly two years to escape authorities.
The rise of supermarkets
Jan 29, 2019 • 3 min
If you’re like most Americans, you probably visit a grocery store once or twice a week. But you probably don’t know that one single grocery item is responsible for the rise of supermarkets as we know them.
How the Doomsday Clock came to be
Jan 28, 2019 • 4 min
Over the past seven decades, the Doomsday Clock has served as a metaphorical measure of humankind’s proximity to global catastrophe. Every year, scientists and nuclear experts set the clock’s time after grappling over the state of geopolitical affairs.
Pinball’s sordid past
Jan 25, 2019 • 5 min
Pinball was once so vilified that it was banned in cities across the United States.
The man inside the minds of a million consumers
Jan 24, 2019 • 5 min
In the 1950s, Lester Wunderman became the king of direct mail advertising — the ancestor of today’s online targeted ads.
A history of hats in the House
Jan 23, 2019 • 5 min
In the early days of the House, some congresspeople thought hats had no place atop the heads of representatives debating the great issues of the day. Hats, they argued, weren’t dignified.
The last person to set foot on the moon
Jan 22, 2019 • 4 min
When Eugene Cernan walked on the moon, he didn’t know he’d be the last astronaut to make the journey.
How Martin Luther King Jr. got his name
Jan 21, 2019 • 6 min
The name on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth certificate was not Martin. Nor did the document include the middle name Luther.
Tenure for life
Jan 18, 2019 • 6 min
When Alexander Hamilton argued in favor of lifetime tenures for Supreme Court justices, he probably didn’t foresee them living past their prime.
The hatchet wielding leader of the anti-alcohol movement
Jan 17, 2019 • 6 min
More than a century ago, Carry Amelia Nation — hatchet in hand — chopped the country toward temperance.
A bridge of ice at Niagara Falls
Jan 16, 2019 • 5 min
Once upon a time, people walked between the U.S. and Canada over a frozen Niagara Falls. But one day, that all changed forever.
The only person Hitler loved
Jan 15, 2019 • 4 min
Adolf Hitler’s mother may be the only person he genuinely cared for.
A history of the U.S.-Mexico border
Jan 14, 2019 • 6 min
For decades, the boundary between Mexico and the United States was little more than an imaginary line in the sand.
A presidential emergency that didn’t end well
Jan 11, 2019 • 6 min
When a steel industry strike threatened military production during the Korean War, and Congress couldn’t come to an agreement, President Truman had a solution — declare a national emergency.
How Lego took over the toy world
Jan 10, 2019 • 6 min
Lego started as a company that made wooden toys, and grew into an empire of plastic building blocks.
The summer men rebelled against their shirts
Jan 9, 2019 • 5 min
It doesn’t seem like a big deal today, but 1930s America lived in fear of the male nipple.
The researcher whose rats predicted the Internet
Jan 8, 2019 • 6 min
John Calhoun’s rodent experiments revolutionized the way we think about social behavior and the impact of growing populations.
One of the greatest astronomers of her generation
Jan 7, 2019 • 5 min
Nancy Grace Roman was one of NASA’s first female astronomers and was a key figure in the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.
How one World War II veteran lived to be a centenarian
Jan 4, 2019 • 5 min
At 112-years-old, Richard Overton was the oldest living World War II veteran.
A wooden mallet with a colorful history of being shattered
Jan 3, 2019 • 5 min
Throughout American history, speakers of the House have pounded their gavels so hard in search of order that they wind up smashing the gavel itself into smithereens.
The rabble rouser who inspired Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Jan 2, 2019 • 6 min
Dorothy Kenyon was an early leader in the legal fight for women’s rights.
Mourning Bobby Kennedy
Jan 1, 2019 • 6 min
We’re taking a little break over the holidays to look back on some of the best Retropod episodes from 2018. Today, we look back on the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
The story of the real Charlotte of ‘Charlotte’s Web’
Dec 31, 2018 • 6 min
We’re taking a little break over the holidays to look back on some of the best Retropod episodes from 2018. Today, an episode co-hosted by Madeline Daly, who won our Retropod trivia contest at the 2018 National Book Festival.
The day Martin Luther King Jr. died
Dec 28, 2018 • 7 min
We’re taking a little break over the holidays to look back on some of the best Retropod episodes from 2018. Today, our episode marking the date Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, 50 years ago this April.
Doughnuts, the most patriotic of the junk foods
Dec 27, 2018 • 4 min
We’re taking a little break over the holidays to look back on some of the best Retropod episodes from 2018. Today, doughnuts. They aren’t just delicious. They also helped America win a war.
Ida B. Wells, the woman who never gave up
Dec 26, 2018 • 6 min
We’re taking a little break over the holidays to look back on some of the best Retropod episodes from 2018. Today, Ida B. Wells, who was an investigative journalist, an anti-lynching activist, a suffragette and a teacher.
Big Bird and the genius inside
Dec 25, 2018 • 6 min
We’re taking a little break over the holidays to look back on some of the best Retropod episodes from 2018. Today, the story of Caroll Spinney and his iconic character Big Bird.
The military’s famous Santa Tracker began with a wrong number
Dec 24, 2018 • 6 min
In the 1950s, a child trying to call Santa Claus accidentally called NORAD and changed Christmas Eve forever.
The Christmas Truce
Dec 21, 2018 • 5 min
During the first Christmas of World War I, a miracle took place all along the Europe’s Western Front.
A piece of punctuation that failed to leave its mark
Dec 20, 2018 • 5 min
A new punctuation mark called the interrobang found its way onto some typewriters in the 1960s, but it never caught on.
President Grant fired his own special prosecutor
Dec 19, 2018 • 6 min
In 1875, Ulysses S. Grant hired a special prosecutor to investigate the Whiskey Ring scandal. Furious with his findings, Grant had him fired.
The first presidential press conference
Dec 18, 2018 • 5 min
Before 1913, the presidential press conference didn’t exist. But a president who liked reporters changed that.
The astronomer who took gay rights to the Supreme Court
Dec 17, 2018 • 5 min
After being fired from his job for being gay, Frank Kameny took his battle for equality to the nation’s highest court.
The policeman who arrested a president
Dec 14, 2018 • 6 min
After receiving complaints about carriages driving too fast, Washington D.C. policeman William H. West arrested a presidential speed demon.
One of the ugliest speaker fights in congressional history
Dec 13, 2018 • 4 min
In 1859, the House went to war over Rep. John Sherman’s bid for leadership.
The evangelist and convicted cat burglar who galvanized gay rights
Dec 12, 2018 • 5 min
In Houston, Ray Hill was a colossal character. He even adopted “citizen provocateur” as a formal title.
In 1939, the ‘American Hitler’ took the stage at Madison Square Garden
Dec 11, 2018 • 5 min
Fritz Kuhn was the leader of the pro-Nazi group known as the German American Bund. He was a hero to his audience, and a scourge on the world to most others.
The cranberry crisis that changed how we see our food
Dec 10, 2018 • 6 min
Weeks before Thanksgiving, 1959, cranberries were declared unsafe to eat. The race was on to save America’s favorite holiday side dish.
The ‘Toy King’ who never aspired to the throne.
Dec 7, 2018 • 6 min
Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus had no idea how big the toy industry would become.
America’s first black Catholic priest
Dec 6, 2018 • 6 min
Augustus Tolton’s miraculous life took him from slavery to the brink of sainthood.
John Adams was eulogized before his son even knew he died
Dec 5, 2018 • 5 min
News traveled so slowly in 1826 that the former president was buried days before his son, sitting president John Quincy Adams, got word of his death.
George H.W. Bush was a president and a prankster
Dec 4, 2018 • 6 min
Bush, who died last week, is being fondly remembered for his cool demeanor and a boundless sense of humor.
The unlikely friendship between George H.W. Bush and Dana Carvey
Dec 1, 2018 • 5 min
George H.W. Bush had a lot of humility. So much that he developed a friendship with the comedian who impersonated him on SNL, Dana Carvey.
William Howard Taft’s housekeeper kept track of his weight
Nov 30, 2018 • 4 min
White House maid Elizabeth Jaffray not only cleaned up after presidents, she had an amazing insight into their appetites.
The National Christmas Tree
Nov 29, 2018 • 4 min
One of the grandest events the president presides over every year is the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
The trials and tribulations of being a cat
Nov 28, 2018 • 2 min
Cats have endured some really mean stuff throughout history. Dogs should be thankful.
Then they came for me
Nov 27, 2018 • 4 min
Martin Niemoller’s simple and haunting words are often quoted in moments of intolerance. The story behind them is much more complicated.
A brief history of presidents visiting troops in combat
Nov 26, 2018 • 5 min
Presidents throughout history have visited battlefields to better grasp conditions, reverse public doubt and signal that the country took war efforts seriously.
Benjamin Franklin’s complicated relationship with turkeys
Nov 21, 2018 • 5 min
Benjamin Franklin, the most colorful of America’s Founding Fathers, had a misunderstood, electrical and ultimately homicidal relationship with turkeys.
The Green Book
Nov 20, 2018 • 5 min
In the 1930s, traveling the nation’s highways while black was fraught with peril. One postal worker, Victor Green, wrote a guidebook for African Americans after he faced discrimination on a road trip.
The origins of the Unknown Soldier
Nov 19, 2018 • 6 min
The story of how the anonymous soldier came to rest inside the famous tomb is almost as unknown as his identity.
Mark Twain’s complicated relationship with the typewriter
Nov 16, 2018 • 5 min
Mark Twain first laid eyes on a “newfangled typing machine,” as he called it, sometime in the early 1870s.
Food stamps were born out of a surplus of food
Nov 15, 2018 • 6 min
The idea of food stamps was born out of a complicated paradox.
William Rehnquist’s proposal to Sandra Day O’Connor
Nov 14, 2018 • 5 min
Rehnquist proposed. O’Connor said no.
The first lady who couldn’t get her memoir published
Nov 13, 2018 • 5 min
Julia Grant didn’t a have particularly good experience in the world of publishing. In fact, her memoir wasn’t even published in her lifetime.
Joachim Ronneberg, the saboteur who crippled Nazi atomic bomb project
Nov 12, 2018 • 5 min
Ronneberg started speaking about his experience in history in recent years.
America and warfare were never the same after World War I
Nov 9, 2018 • 4 min
Along with staggering death tolls, the “Great War” generated memorable literature, geopolitical upheaval, hope, disillusion, the Russian Revolution and the seeds of World War II.
Wong Kim Ark’s Supreme Court fight for birthright citizenship
Nov 8, 2018 • 6 min
In 1895, the United States tried to deny an American citizen entry to the country even though he was born on U.S. soil.
How the Greeks once used a lottery system to select government officials
Nov 7, 2018 • 5 min
Some believed that a lottery was more democratic than a vote.
The makings of an electoral heist
Nov 6, 2018 • 6 min
Gerrymandering became a real electoral cudgel with a project called REDMAP.
Rahm Emanuel, Howard Dean and the midterm elections of 2006
Nov 5, 2018 • 5 min
Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, had two different approaches to taking back the House of Representatives. Their feud wasn’t pretty.
Fall back, spring forward
Nov 2, 2018 • 3 min
Why, oh, why is daylight savings a thing? It’s because for roughly two decades after World War II, no one had any clue what time it was.
Mary Ann Van Hoof and the Marian apparitions
Nov 1, 2018 • 6 min
Van Hoof said she also has seen George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Joan of Arc.
Close encounters with the Capitol’s Demon Cat
Oct 31, 2018 • 4 min
From the mid-1800s to well into the 20th century, the Capitol’s Demon Cat was the top dog of Washington ghost stories.
How Pittsburgh’s Mister Rogers talked to children about tragedy
Oct 30, 2018 • 6 min
Mister Rogers’s approach to dealing with grief began with an American tragedy.
New York’s mad bomber
Oct 29, 2018 • 7 min
In 1956, New York City’s bomb squad used criminal profiling to catch a terrorist known as “The Mad Bomber.”
The sword pulled from history
Oct 26, 2018 • 4 min
An 8-year-old found an ancient sword in a Swedish lake. Does that make her the queen?
A love supreme: Ruth Bader and Martin Ginsburg
Oct 25, 2018 • 6 min
She was short. He was tall. Her family wasn’t well off. His was. She was a worrier. He had not a care in the world. If you looked up mismatch in the dictionary, Ruth Bader and Martin D. Ginsburg fit the definition perfectly.
The unstoppable Fannie Lou Hamer
Oct 24, 2018 • 5 min
Civil rights crusader Fannie Lou Hamer rivaled Martin Luther King Jr. in her command of audiences.
The Sultan of Swat wasn’t always known as a slugger
Oct 23, 2018 • 4 min
Before becoming a legendary big hitter, Babe Ruth was one of baseball’s best from the mound.
Big Bird and the genius inside
Oct 22, 2018 • 6 min
Caroll Spinney and his iconic character were inseparable for almost 50 years.
Woodrow Wilson’s secret letters to another woman
Oct 19, 2018 • 5 min
Family and friends had known about the president’s intimate relationship with Mary Peck for years, but whispers about their involvement were growing.
The metamorphosis of Jackie O
Oct 18, 2018 • 6 min
As Jacqueline Kennedy transitioned from wife-in-chief to widow-in-mourning, there was tension between whom she had been and whom she was allowed to become.
The body of Emmett Till
Oct 17, 2018 • 4 min
Emmett Till’s mother opened his casket and sparked the civil rights movement.
The photographer and the busboy
Oct 16, 2018 • 5 min
Photographer Boris Yaro shot the photo of Bobby Kennedy lying fatally wounded in the arms of Juan Romero, a busboy. The photo would haunt both of them.
The Romanovs, Russia’s ‘odious’ autocratic family
Oct 15, 2018 • 5 min
If you think your family is overrun with controlling lunatics, please meet the Romanovs.
The gory origins of the Waterloo teeth
Oct 12, 2018 • 4 min
More than 50,000 soldiers died during the Battle of Waterloo, but their teeth lived on.
How the teddy bear was born
Oct 11, 2018 • 4 min
In the fall of 1902, a year into his presidency, President Teddy Roosevelt set off to Mississippi for a bear-hunting vacation. It ended differently than planned.
The first black female White House reporter held the powerful accountable on civil rights
Oct 10, 2018 • 5 min
It was rare to be a woman or African American covering the White House in the 1940s. Alice Dunnigan was both.
The teenage girl who caught a Nazi monster
Oct 9, 2018 • 6 min
In the fall of 1957, as the world was moving on from World War II and the extermination of 6 million Jews, Sylvia Hermann knocked on the door of a modest home in Buenos Aires.
The complicated history of swimsuits and Miss America
Oct 8, 2018 • 5 min
The debate was always about more than swimsuits.
The assassin who wore braids and killed Nazis
Oct 5, 2018 • 5 min
Freddie Oversteegen was 14 when she joined the Dutch resistance, though with her long, dark hair in braids she looked at least two years younger.
The surprising history of the 25th Amendment
Oct 4, 2018 • 6 min
The 25th Amendment passed after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In the 1850s, navigating Ice Alley was deadly for ships
Oct 3, 2018 • 5 min
Despite warnings of icebergs, the John Rutledge set sail from Liverpool, England, to New York.
America’s forgotten Iranian hostage
Oct 2, 2018 • 4 min
Nine months before the Iran hostage crisis, Kenneth Kraus was held hostage in Iran for eight days.
The heroine of Lime Rock Lighthouse
Oct 1, 2018 • 3 min
Ida Lewis saved as many as 25 people during her service at the lighthouse. But her deeds have largely been forgotten.
How accusations against Supreme Court nominees were once handled
Sep 28, 2018 • 4 min
In 1890, Henry Brown sailed through the confirmation process after being accused of shooting and killing someone in self defense.
The man and the coconut that saved JFK
Sep 27, 2018 • 4 min
William Liebenow rescued John F. Kennedy from an island filled with coconuts.
Rosie the Riveter isn’t who you think she is
Sep 26, 2018 • 4 min
An American in the 1940s would not recognize the woman from the “We Can Do It!” poster as Rosie the Riveter.
The presidential pardon the country never forgot
Sep 25, 2018 • 5 min
When Gerald Ford took over the presidency after Richard Nixon’s resignation, he soon made a controversial choice: He pardoned Nixon.
How Anita Hill’s testimony led to the “Year of the Woman”
Sep 24, 2018 • 5 min
No women served on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. The ugly Anita Hill hearings changed that.
The thin-skinned president who made it illegal to criticize his office
Sep 21, 2018 • 5 min
The Alien and Sedition Acts passed under President John Adams led to the arrests of more than two dozen people.
The photographer who helped end child labor in America
Sep 20, 2018 • 5 min
Lewis Hine posed as a Bible salesman or machinery photographer to expose the hardships of child labor.
Only half of George Washington’s Supreme Court justices showed up on time
Sep 19, 2018 • 5 min
All of George Washington’s Supreme Court nominees were confirmed in only two days, but half of them didn’t show up on time.
Winnie and Nelson Mandela’s marriage survived prison but not freedom
Sep 18, 2018 • 4 min
Their 38-year marriage endured his incarceration and hers.
The day the nation’s capital welcomed the KKK
Sep 17, 2018 • 5 min
In 1925, 30,000 Klansmen descended on Washington, D.C. The city cheered their arrival.
The search for the anonymous author of a 1996 political novel
Sep 14, 2018 • 5 min
Before an unnamed senior official in the Trump administration published the opinion piece, “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration” in the New York Times, another mysterious anonymous author lit up Washington.
The surprise hurricane that devastated the Florida Keys
Sep 13, 2018 • 4 min
In 1935, the Florida Keys ignored the threat of a looming hurricane. When the Category 5 storm made landfall, it left a wake of death and destruction.
How a solar eclipse made Albert Einstein famous
Sep 12, 2018 • 4 min
It may be hard to believe, but one single event rocketed Einstein to fame.
The rookie pilot who was ready to give her life on Sept. 11
Sep 11, 2018 • 5 min
Heather Penney was among the first female combat pilots in the country. On Sept. 11, 2001, she got a mission: Bring down the fourth hijacked plane hurtling towards Washington.
Abraham Lincoln says he owes everything to his ‘angel mother’ and ‘mama’
Sep 10, 2018 • 5 min
President Abraham Lincoln had two loving and supportive mothers in his lifetime. The second helped him cope with the tragic loss of the first.
The story of the real Charlotte of ‘Charlotte’s Web’
Sep 7, 2018 • 5 min
This episode is co-hosted by Madeline Daly, who won Retropod trivia last Saturday at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
Roe v. Wade’s forgotten loser
Sep 6, 2018 • 4 min
Dallas prosecutor Henry Wade never intended to become a central figure in Supreme Court history.
The French aviators who almost beat Charles Lindbergh
Sep 5, 2018 • 4 min
In 1927, the world watched as two French aviators attempted the world’s first transatlantic flight.
The campus massacre before Kent State
Sep 4, 2018 • 5 min
The first mass police shooting on a U.S. college campus happened two years before the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University.
The time the United States illegally deported 1 million Mexican Americans
Sep 3, 2018 • 5 min
In 1931, President Herbert Hoover started a program that would result in the illegal deportation of 1.8 million people to Mexico by the end of the 1930s. Of those people, 60 percent were U.S. citizens.
The Quaker abolitionist who was disowned for condemning slave owners
Aug 31, 2018 • 6 min
Benjamin Lay wrote one of the first treatises against slavery in Colonial America, a time when many prosperous Pennsylvania Quakers were slave owners. But for speaking out, the Quakers disowned him.
Ida B. Wells, the woman who never gave up
Aug 30, 2018 • 6 min
Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist, an anti-lynching activist, a suffragette and a teacher.
How a Supreme Court clerk changed the decision on Clay v. United States
Aug 29, 2018 • 6 min
Muhammad Ali was so close to going to jail for evading the draft. He has a Supreme Court clerk to thank for his freedom.
Colonel Blood, the scoundrel who tried to steal Great Britain’s crown jewels
Aug 28, 2018 • 3 min
Thomas Blood had somewhat of a shady past. According to Ireland’s History magazine, he had a reputation for espionage and conducting terrorist campaigns — though many of his plans were foiled just in time.
Being a maverick almost stopped John McCain from becoming a public servant
Aug 27, 2018 • 4 min
At the Naval Academy, McCain was in a group called the “Bad Bunch” as he rebelled against his father’s expectations.
Paul Jennings, the former slave who disputed a legend from history
Aug 24, 2018 • 4 min
According to James Madison’s Virginia mansion Montpelier, Paul Jennings’ account reveals, “how the racial and gender hierarchies of the time complicate the way we understand roles in historic events.”
What Operation Pied Piper taught us about family separations
Aug 23, 2018 • 5 min
Millions of British children were evacuated from London and other cities to escape the horrors of war. But the family separations seemed to impart long-term trauma that was in many cases as severe as if they had stayed behind and faced the bombs.
Reagan’s most historic speech took a few years to make an impact
Aug 22, 2018 • 3 min
When President Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” it was not seen as a historic moment. It took the actual fall of the wall to resurrect the speech and drill the quote into our consciousness.
A president’s lions and the emoluments clause
Aug 21, 2018 • 5 min
The greatest emoluments-clause dilemma of the 1800s involved two lions.
How Harry S. Truman went from being a racist to desegregating the military
Aug 20, 2018 • 5 min
When Harry Truman became president in 1945, Southern members of Congress were delighted. They thought he’d be sympathetic to segregationists. He proved them wrong.
The long-lost ‘Laws of Baseball’
Aug 17, 2018 • 4 min
On display in Washington, D.C. are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and another document that details a fundamental institution in American life: baseball.
The congressman who shot a waiter
Aug 16, 2018 • 4 min
A hungry congressman didn’t get the breakfast he ordered. So he shot the waiter.
The time Truman met with Stalin and it went well
Aug 15, 2018 • 4 min
Back in 1941, a get-together that should have been fraught with uneasiness didn’t turn out that way, which is surprising given the participants: President Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin.
Meet Paul Manafort’s century-old forefather, who also liked fancy suits
Aug 14, 2018 • 4 min
Samuel Cutler Ward, also known as the “King of the Lobby,” is credited with shaping the craft of lobbying. And like lobbyist and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, he also had some seriously expensive tastes.
An aviation flop was a stamp collector’s dream and the U.S. Postal Service’s nightmare
Aug 13, 2018 • 4 min
A stamp collector’s discovery of the “Inverted Jenny” stamp created a headache for the U.S. Postal Service.
How Mister Rogers talked to children and families about tragedy
Aug 10, 2018 • 6 min
Mister Rogers’s approach to dealing with tragedy began with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
The storied past of Alderson federal women’s prison
Aug 9, 2018 • 4 min
The Alderson Federal Prison Camp has a history filled with powerful women who both pushed for the walls to be built there and served time within them.
Rebels, turn out your dead!
Aug 8, 2018 • 4 min
During the American Revolution, more patriots died as prisoners of war in or around New York City than died in combat.
The Saturday Night Massacre
Aug 7, 2018 • 4 min
The one night that changed President Nixon’s fate has stuck with us as a reminder of the limits of presidential power.
The dark history of the pill
Aug 6, 2018 • 4 min
A group of poor women in Puerto Rico were the first test subjects for the birth control pill. Were they guinea pigs or pioneers?
Meet Yvonne Burke, the first congresswoman to give birth in office
Aug 3, 2018 • 3 min
Sixty years after Congress welcomed its first woman, it welcomed its first baby.
The unlikely start of the Boy Scout movement
Aug 2, 2018 • 4 min
The Boy Scout movement began 110 years ago on a tiny island just off the southern coast of England.
How the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds began
Aug 1, 2018 • 4 min
The anti-Semitic conspiracy theories surrounding the Rothschild family date all the way back to The Battle of Waterloo.
The first campus shooting
Jul 31, 2018 • 4 min
A professor at The University of Virginia was fatally shot by a student in 1840.
How God became part of the pledge
Jul 30, 2018 • 4 min
For over 50 years, the phrase “under God” was not a part of the Pledge of Allegiance. One sermon changed that.
How a textile shortage led to the invention of the bikini
Jul 27, 2018 • 4 min
This episode addresses the history of the bikini in, naturally, two parts.
The complicated story of Linda Brown and the fight for desegregated schools
Jul 26, 2018 • 3 min
Linda Brown and her father Oliver Brown are heroes of the civil rights movement. The backstory of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education is more complicated than what you learned in school.
The time a senator won an Emmy for grilling witnesses at a hearing
Jul 25, 2018 • 4 min
In 1951, a televised Senate hearing caught America’s attention.
The rainless flood that destroyed a city
Jul 24, 2018 • 4 min
It did not rain, at least not in Ellicott City, Md. That’s what made the 1868 flood so bizarre and unexpected.
How a renovation made the Supreme Court a friendlier place
Jul 23, 2018 • 4 min
One simple change to how the Supreme Court bench was designed made a world of difference to how the justices communicated.
The Mountaintop
Jul 20, 2018 • 4 min
On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis to support sanitation workers who were protesting for their civil rights. It was there that King delivered his last speech.
The most romantic day
Jul 19, 2018 • 3 min
From all over the country, couples rushed to Las Vegas to get married. The demand for quickie weddings was at a fever pitch. But it wasn’t Cupid’s arrow causing the frenzy. It was the Vietnam War.
The night America burned
Jul 18, 2018 • 4 min
The deadliest wildfire in U.S. history wasn’t in California.
All the presidents’ ghosts
Jul 17, 2018 • 3 min
Whether you believe in this stuff or not, the many accounts that have spilled out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two centuries give ghosts an undeniable place in the country’s history.
Don’t mess with Harriet Tubman
Jul 16, 2018 • 4 min
She was just 5 feet tall. There was once a $40,000 bounty on her head. She suffered seizures throughout her life. She never gave up. She never gave in.
The epic bender that launched America
Jul 13, 2018 • 3 min
Washington and his fellow partiers racked up a bill of $15,000 in today’s currency celebrating the completion of the Constitution.
A Supreme Court justice morally opposed abortion, but voted to legalize it
Jul 12, 2018 • 5 min
The justice who helped persuade a majority of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion found the practice unthinkable — personally, but not constitutionally.
Eartha Kitt confronted the first lady and it nearly ruined her career
Jul 11, 2018 • 4 min
At a White House luncheon, actress Eartha Kitt would not let the president or the first lady avoid the issue of the Vietnam War. She paid a heavy price for her boldness.
Oregon, America’s first and only state to begin as “whites-only”
Jul 10, 2018 • 4 min
Oregon’s original constitution banned black people from the state, and the law stayed in the constitution for well over 100 years.
How Eleanor Roosevelt invented the modern idea of a first lady
Jul 9, 2018 • 4 min
Eleanor Roosevelt held news conferences just for female reporters. The men were not impressed.
The time America invaded Britain
Jul 6, 2018 • 4 min
Spoiler: It did not go well.
The teen who tied a Virginia election
Jul 5, 2018 • 3 min
In 1971, Stephen Burns was 18 years old and a newly minted voter. He was so jazzed to be a part of the Democratic process.
Thomas Jefferson’s last letter
Jul 4, 2018 • 3 min
Somehow, in the depths of his personal misery towards the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson had found his powerful way with words again.
The U.S. government recruited black men to watch them die
Jul 3, 2018 • 4 min
The Tuskegee syphilis experiment is a horrific piece of American history.
The deaf men who helped NASA send humans to space
Jul 2, 2018 • 3 min
In a largely forgotten experiment, a group of students from Gallaudet University spent years helping NASA understand the mechanisms of motion sickness, and how to prevent it.
That time we thought an asteroid might kill us all
Jun 29, 2018 • 3 min
In 1998, the world briefly panicked over an asteroid that seemed headed for a close call with Earth. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
The femme fatale
Jun 28, 2018 • 4 min
For the past 100 years, Mata Hari has been revered as the quintessential glamorous spy. But the real Mata Hari was much more complicated.
The first congresswoman’s vote
Jun 27, 2018 • 5 min
In April 1917, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, faced an agonizing choice. Should she, or should she not, vote for the United States to enter World War I?
How Hollywood’s first major blockbuster revived the KKK
Jun 26, 2018 • 4 min
“The Birth of a Nation” depicted life after the Civil War in a way that glorified Klansmen. The film and its cultural impact led one man to conclude that the time was right to bring back the Klu Klux Klan.
The first pride parade
Jun 25, 2018 • 3 min
The very first pride parade was held in 1964 and was a bit … calmer … than what we think of today.
The oldest surviving banjo recording
Jun 22, 2018 • 5 min
Charles Asbury’s newly digitized songs serve as a time capsule to the music of the 19th century.
The worst presidents
Jun 21, 2018 • 5 min
Besides President Trump, whom do scholars scorn the most?
Doughnuts, the most patriotic of the junk foods
Jun 20, 2018 • 3 min
Doughnuts aren’t just delicious. They also helped America win a war.
The first shark attacks
Jun 19, 2018 • 4 min
For most of American history, no one was scared of sharks. One week - and one shark - changed that.
Between Lincoln and Washington, only one was a great poet
Jun 18, 2018 • 4 min
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two great presidents, had a lot in common: Both lost a parent as a child, both had a serious demeanor, and both dabbled with writing poetry. But only one was any good at poetry.
This security guard discovered the Watergate break-in, but nobody remembers him
Jun 15, 2018 • 3 min
The man who called the police on the Watergate burglars never received the credit he deserved.
Thomas Jefferson’s iftar dinner and the long history of Ramadan at the White House
Jun 14, 2018 • 3 min
In December 1805, a handful of prominent politicians receive invitations to join President Thomas Jefferson for a White House dinner. The occasion was the arrival of a Tunisian envoy to the U.S., Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who was observing Ramadan.
The biscuit tin
Jun 13, 2018 • 3 min
It’s World War II, and you’re King George VI of England. You fear a Nazi invasion of England could come at any moment. How do you protect the crown jewels? Not even Queen Elizabeth II knew how her dad did it - until recently.
Before Loving, another interracial couple fought to marry
Jun 12, 2018 • 3 min
The Kinneys married in Washington, D.C. in 1874. Then, they were arrested back home in Virginia for violating the state’s laws. They fought the ruling in higher and higher courts, but never won the right to stay married in their home state.
The Jedwabne massacre
Jun 11, 2018 • 3 min
The controversy around the murders of a Polish village’s Jewish residents has centered on raw questions of complicity versus compulsion.
Tennis’s first goddess
Jun 8, 2018 • 3 min
Suzanne Lenglen was physically ferocious. Always fashionable. A disrupter of convention.
The White House makeover
Jun 7, 2018 • 3 min
When the White House was built over 200 years ago, it lacked certain modern conveniences. They got added in a hodgepodge of improvements over the years.
The Order of the Day
Jun 6, 2018 • 4 min
On the day before D-Day, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech to the troops that totally masked how nervous he actually was.
The “temporary insanity” legal defense started with an affair
Jun 5, 2018 • 4 min
If you love gossip, and drama, and D.C. politics - this story is the gift that keeps on giving.
History’s most fascinating misquote
Jun 4, 2018 • 3 min
The Apollo 13 astronauts never said “Houston we have a problem.” Here’s why you think they did.
Mourning Bobby Kennedy
Jun 1, 2018 • 5 min
Robert F. Kennedy’s death, which came just weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., shocked the nation, especially those who looked to him to continue the national discussion over racial inequality.
The black power protest that shook the world
May 31, 2018 • 2 min
At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, one of the most iconic moments of that chaotic year unfolded on television screens around the world.
LBJ’s political bombshell
May 30, 2018 • 5 min
By 1968, things were going badly for President Lyndon B. Johnson. Morale around the Vietnam War was sinking, and in Washington, political sharks were circling.
One broadcast helped turn Americans against the Vietnam War
May 29, 2018 • 4 min
Walter Cronkite’s reputation, his calm but authoritative voice, carried so much weight that in 1968 one single report helped persuade the American public that we weren’t winning the war in Vietnam.
The performance that saved Johnny Cash’s career
May 28, 2018 • 4 min
In a year of extraordinary, chaotic moments this was a hopeful one - a beat-up country music star recording an album live at a troubled maximum security prison in California.
Publishers hated ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ and Madeleine L’Engle never forgot the rejections
May 25, 2018 • 4 min
‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle said she received 26 rejection letters from publishers.
When Ronald Reagan visited a family targeted by the KKK
May 24, 2018 • 3 min
In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan wasn’t exactly known for his racial sensitivity. But when he read about a family whose house was targeted by the KKK, he and the First Lady flew out to comfort them.
The Nazi stone
May 23, 2018 • 4 min
A mysterious stone memorial was found in 2006 in Washington, D.C. But who placed a memorial to Nazi spies on government property? And why?
Elaine Brown, the first and only woman to lead the Black Panther Party
May 22, 2018 • 3 min
Elaine Brown’s takeover in 1974 was a pivotal moment for a woman in the black power movement. Although women had been a dynamic force for social and racial justice, they had often been overshadowed by men.
The man who filmed JFK’s assassination
May 21, 2018 • 3 min
For many, memories of that devastating day quickly revert to that silent, flickering sequence captured by Abraham Zapruder. It is as chilling as it is familiar: the approaching convertible, the waves of a crowd about to lose its innocence.
Princess Diana’s final hours
May 18, 2018 • 4 min
When Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle are married this weekend, there will be one other royal on the world’s minds - Harry’s mother, the beloved Princess Diana.
The enigmatic Prince Philip - separating fact from fiction
May 17, 2018 • 4 min
The British royal wedding puts all eyes on the Windsor family - this time, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. But perhaps no royal is as controversial as Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip.
Wallis Simpson, the last American divorcee who married a British royal
May 16, 2018 • 3 min
Another British royal wedding is coming up, so over the next few days, we’ll explore a few moments from the history of royal marriages in Great Britain. Today, we meet Wallis Simpson, the last American divorcee to marry a British royal.
The truth is out there
May 15, 2018 • 4 min
Area 51’s secrets may not be alien in nature, but that doesn’t make them any less mysterious.
John Brown’s prophecy
May 14, 2018 • 3 min
Abolitionist John Brown wrote made a prophecy before he was executed.
She spent years fighting to create Mother’s Day, then lost everything trying to protect it
May 11, 2018 • 3 min
Anna Jarvis would absolutely hate what Mother’s Day has become.
The Sullivan brothers
May 10, 2018 • 3 min
Five brothers fought and died together on the same ship during World War II. Their final resting place was discovered earlier this year.
Lee Harvey Oswald’s final hours before killing Kennedy
May 9, 2018 • 3 min
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy devastated the nation. But the day before the shooting was just a normal day. It was particularly calm and uneventful for the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.
To ban a “Mockingbird”
May 8, 2018 • 4 min
Harper Lee’s classic novel has been causing controversy for as long as its been in print. Here’s a look at the history of banning “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The original Alcoholics Anonymous book was auctioned for millions, but its author was never paid
May 7, 2018 • 4 min
The original manuscript was auctioned off for $2.4 million this weekend to an NFL owner, after almost a year of legal wrangling.
May the Fourth be with you
May 4, 2018 • 5 min
Mark Hamill himself shares stories from Star Wars history. You can hear the full interview with Hamill on the Cape Up podcast with Jonathan Capehart.
The battle between Old Waddy and the press
May 3, 2018 • 3 min
Believe it or not, the relationship between politicians and the press has been worse. A lot worse.
Were the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler friends?
May 2, 2018 • 3 min
Was the duke a Nazi sympathizer? Did he plot to dethrone his brother, King George VI? Did he really suggest more German bombing of Britain might end World War II?
Need a job? Ask Ulysses S. Grant
May 1, 2018 • 3 min
Grant had an impressive resume on the battlefield, he was known to be a patsy when it came to helping job hunters. People used to walk right into the White House and ask the president to find them a job
How the Doomsday Clock came to be
Apr 30, 2018 • 3 min
The Doomsday Clock was created not by a scientist, but by an artist.
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day was once just for daughters
Apr 27, 2018 • 2 min
Mike is joined by a special guest to talk about how Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day began.
These guys were college jocks - and then became Presidents of the United States
Apr 26, 2018 • 4 min
We dug through The Washington Post’s archives and consulted the Pro Football Hall of Fame to bring you a rundown of the best presidential ballers.
The only person Hitler loved
Apr 25, 2018 • 4 min
Adolf Hitler’s mother may be the only person he genuinely cared for.
Philadelphia’s plumbing revolution: wood pipes
Apr 24, 2018 • 3 min
In 1812, Philadelphia was outfitted with the latest in plumbing technology - a network of wooden pipes to carry water throughout the city.
Chillicothe, Missouri, the town that invented sliced bread
Apr 23, 2018 • 3 min
The town of Chillicothe, Missouri, recently discovered they have a surprising claim to history: the creation of sliced bread.
Barbara Bush’s remarkable commencement address
Apr 20, 2018 • 4 min
In 1990, students protested the choice of the first lady as their commencement speaker, calling it anti-feminist. Her speech silenced the critics.
The day anti-Vietnam War protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon
Apr 19, 2018 • 3 min
In October 1967, antiwar protesters announced that they would march en masse to the front steps of the Pentagon. and levitate it. And then they would try to levitate it.
The history of epic North Korean insults
Apr 18, 2018 • 2 min
North Korea has long been a superpower when it comes verbal attacks.
Hate the IRS? Blame Abraham Lincoln.
Apr 17, 2018 • 3 min
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln was in a financial bind. Also, he was in a war. To raise money, he pushed for and won passage of an income tax and, a year or so later, established the Internal Revenue Bureau to collect what was owed.
The mother who made George Washington miserable
Apr 16, 2018 • 4 min
George and his mother had an unusual relationship for the 1700s, more like what you might see in a sitcom from the 1970s. She was indispensable to him, but intolerable.
Why Thurgood Marshall asked an ex-Klan member to help him make Supreme Court history
Apr 13, 2018 • 3 min
Thurgood Marshall, the first African American member of the Supreme Court, took the constitutional oath of office from Hugo Black, a white associate justice who had once been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
A letter from home
Apr 12, 2018 • 3 min
A German woman discovered that her childhood home was stolen from a Jewish family who fled Nazi Germany. Last year, she tracked down the address of one of the children, and wrote him a letter.
Was Mary Todd Lincoln a leaker?
Apr 11, 2018 • 4 min
President Abraham Lincoln had to worry about the first lady being a leaker, and it was quite a scandal.
Winifred Stanley, a forgotten equal pay pioneer
Apr 10, 2018 • 3 min
The woman who first introduced equal pay legislation in Congress had to fight to be taken seriously — and often failed.
The invention of sarin
Apr 9, 2018 • 3 min
Weevils, a voracious beetle found in fields and orchards, were the original target of sarin gas.
The spy plane
Apr 6, 2018 • 4 min
Over the past few months, historians and national security analysts have been re-examining one particular forgotten moment in the history of U.S. and North Korea conflict.
The toughest job in politics
Apr 5, 2018 • 2 min
The most thankless job might be that of the White House press secretary. Just ask Ron Ziegler.
The day Martin Luther King Jr. died
Apr 4, 2018 • 7 min
Fifty years ago today, the civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis. Riots broke out across the country, but in Indianapolis, there was peace.
The Mountaintop
Apr 3, 2018 • 4 min
On April 3, 1968, 50 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis to support sanitation workers who were protesting for their civil rights. It was there that King delivered his last speech.
The books the presidents read
Apr 2, 2018 • 4 min
Throughout history, the reading of books has been a sort of armchair way measuring someone’s intelligence. Here are stories of three former presidents at opposite ends of the reading spectrum. You can decide for yourself.
Egg Roll
Mar 30, 2018 • 3 min
One day a year, the White House grounds are truly turned over to the people - well, the kids. That day is the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, and it began as the solution to a problem that Victorian children created.
The girl who struck out Babe Ruth
Mar 29, 2018 • 3 min
One of baseball’s most enduring mysteries surrounds a 17-year-old girl name Jackie Mitchell.
The first daughters
Mar 28, 2018 • 4 min
Ivanka Trump might be the only first daughter in American history to score a West Wing office, but she’s not the first presidential daughter to wield power in the White House.
Meet the Press
Mar 27, 2018 • 3 min
At the beginning of the television age, “Meet the Press” dented the dominance of newspapers and thrilled news junkies with the you-were-there power of live broadcasting.
The man who won World War II
Mar 26, 2018 • 4 min
Andrew Higgins wasn’t in the Army. He wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a wild and wily genius, a tough, crafty, businessman. And he built the built the boats that brought troops ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The children’s crusade
Mar 23, 2018 • 4 min
The movement organized by survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., is not the first time that kids have taken a stand. History shows that kids, with their innocence, honesty and moral urgency, can shame adults into discovering their conscience.
The forbidden question
Mar 22, 2018 • 3 min
If the order for a nuclear attack is issued, the soldiers operating the launch machine have no choice but to fire. Or do they?
The crooked picture
Mar 21, 2018 • 4 min
Jesse James, the most famous outlaw in history, was eventually foiled by a picture hanging crooked on a wall.
Lawn wars
Mar 20, 2018 • 4 min
Lawns have always been more than just grass.
Dr. Spock
Mar 19, 2018 • 4 min
Dr. Spock - not the guy from Star Trek - was at one time America’s most beloved pediatrician. A whole generation of children was raised on his medical advice. But not even his popularity could save him from being indicted by the federal government.
Then they came for me
Mar 16, 2018 • 4 min
Martin Niemoller’s simple and haunting words are often quoted in moments of intolerance. The story behind them is much more complicated.
The godfather of bracketology
Mar 15, 2018 • 3 min
Some 50 million people are projected to fill out a March Madness bracket this year. As you finish filling out yours, you might want to tip your pencil and say thanks to the late and loud Staten Island bar owner Jody Haggerty.
The Limping Lady
Mar 14, 2018 • 3 min
President Trump made history Tuesday when he nominated a woman to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But while a woman leading the CIA was once unthinkable, female spies have made enormous, overlooked contributions in espionage.
The first female marine
Mar 13, 2018 • 2 min
During World War I, the Marines Corps back home needed help while the men were fighting overseas. Opha May Johnson was the first in line.
The trials and tribulations of being a cat
Mar 12, 2018 • 2 min
Cats have endured some really mean stuff throughout history. Dogs should be thankful.
Fall back, spring forward
Mar 9, 2018 • 3 min
Why, oh, why is daylight savings a thing? It’s because for roughly two decades after World War II, no one had any clue what time it was.
The glass ceiling
Mar 8, 2018 • 3 min
In 1978, Marilyn Loden coined a phrase that paints very image that women have been fighting for decades.
How are you, Grandmama?
Mar 7, 2018 • 3 min
A dog and a cadaver deserve credit for their contributions to the invention of the telephone.
The night America burned
Mar 6, 2018 • 3 min
The deadliest wildfire in U.S. history wasn’t in California.
And the winner is…
Mar 5, 2018 • 4 min
Oscars night is probably the one moment around the world when people become really interested in envelopes.
Special delivery!
Mar 2, 2018 • 2 min
There’s one thing that you can’t have delivered anymore that was totally normal to send by mail in the early 1900s.
The woman behind Lisa Ben
Mar 1, 2018 • 3 min
Edythe Eyde, also known by her pen name Lisa Ben, was a visionary who fought to make lesbians visible in pop culture decades before most others had the guts to do the same.
The houses built by slaves
Feb 28, 2018 • 3 min
Buildings that stand as symbols of American democracy - the White House, Mount Vernon and Monticello, to name a few - were erected with the labor of those who were not free.
How the NRA began
Feb 27, 2018 • 4 min
When the NRA was founded in 1871, its primary concern was not gun rights or the Second Amendment.
The rise of supermarkets
Feb 26, 2018 • 3 min
If you’re like most Americans, you probably visit a grocery store once or twice a week. But you probably don’t know that one single grocery item is responsible for the rise of supermarkets as we know them.
The Green Book
Feb 23, 2018 • 4 min
In the 1930s, traveling the nation’s highways while black was fraught with peril. One postal worker, Victor Green, wrote a guidebook for African Americans after he faced discrimination on a road trip.
The ice queen
Feb 22, 2018 • 4 min
Sonja Henie won three Olympic gold medals and 10 world championships, and turned her star power into as career as one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. Meet figure skating’s first megastar.
Mrs. Graham
Feb 21, 2018 • 4 min
Katherine Graham’s leadership in the decision to release the Pentagon Papers was the subject of the Stephen Spielberg film “The Post.” But it was her leadership during the pressman’s strike in 1975 that is perhaps the most gripping moment of her life.
The electric rivalry
Feb 20, 2018 • 4 min
To understand the gruesome history of the death penalty, it is essential to comprehend how badly Thomas Edison wanted to zap George Westinghouse.
All the president’s ghosts
Feb 19, 2018 • 3 min
Whether you believe in this stuff or not, the many accounts that have spilled out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two centuries give ghosts an undeniable place in the country’s history.
Don’t mess with Harriet Tubman
Feb 16, 2018 • 5 min
She was just 5 feet tall. There was once a $40,000 bounty on her head. She suffered seizures throughout her life. She never gave up. She never gave in.
When Olympic silver beats gold
Feb 15, 2018 • 4 min
Ski jumping involves flying more than 800 feet in the air and then landing on two feet, without dying. Where on earth did this sport come from?
The most romantic day
Feb 14, 2018 • 3 min
From all over the country, couples rushed to Las Vegas to get married. The demand for quickie weddings was at a fever pitch. But it wasn’t Cupid’s arrow causing the frenzy. It was the Vietnam War.
The best birthday card ever
Feb 13, 2018 • 3 min
In 1926, the United States received a birthday card signed by 5.5 million Polish people.
What hath God wrought?
Feb 12, 2018 • 4 min
The history of social media began in 1844, when Samuel F.B. Morse sent a message from Washington to Baltimore. It said, “What hath God wrought?”
Introducing ‘Retropod’
Feb 7, 2018 • 3 min
Preview The Washington Post’s newest daily podcast, a show about the past, rediscovered. Subscribe now to get the first episode when it launches February 12.