About Charleston Time Machine

The Charleston Time Machine is an imaginary time-travel device created by historian Dr. Nic Butler. It uses stories and facts from the rich, deep, colorful history of Charleston, South Carolina, as a means to educate, inspire, amuse, and even amaze the minds of our community. By exploring the stories of our shared past, we can better understand our present world and plan more effectively for the future.

The Charleston Time Machine is piloted by Nic Butler, Ph.D., an interdisciplinary historian with an infectious enthusiasm for Charleston’s colorful past. A native of Greenville County, South Carolina, Dr. Butler attended the University of South Carolina before completing a Ph.D. in musicology at Indiana University. He has worked as archivist of the South Carolina Historical Society, as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston, and as an historical consultant for the City of Charleston. 

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Recent Trips in Charleston's History

  • The Great Memory Loss of 1865

    In honor of the 235th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Charleston, I’d like to draw your attention to a little-known but incredibly important fact about the history of this city: During the early days of the Federal occupation of Charleston in the spring of 1865, nearly all of the city’s public records mysteriously disappeared. Because of this large-scale loss of records, our ability to learn, to know, and to tell the story of the city of Charleston was permanently abridged.

  • Benne Seeds in the Lowcountry

    Sesame, or “benne” seeds represent an important vestige of the African cultures that came to South Carolina three centuries ago. Lowcountry settlers observed the value of the benne seed, adopted its African name, and once sought to produce it on an industrial scale. For a brief moment in the 1740s, it looked as if South Carolina would become a benne colony. That commercial venture never materialized, but the interest it generated here laid the foundation for the spread of benne throughout the American colonies, and into the culinary fabric of the United States.

  • The Watch House: South Carolina’s First Police Station, 1701–1725

    South Carolina’s first police station was a brick “Watch House” constructed around 1701 at the intersection of Broad and East Bay Streets in Charleston. Built to shelter both the town’s nocturnal watchmen and the lawbreakers they caught on the streets at night, the Watch House was once a vital part of daily life in early Charleston. Three centuries later, however, it’s one of the most obscure public buildings in the city’s history.

  • I am the Trickster: The Resurrection and Burial of Charles Barker Nixon

    After last week’s cliffhanger, we now return to the story of Charles Barker Nixon, a traveling magician and escape artist who came to Charleston in 1876 to be buried alive for the amusement of a crowd of spectators. This week we’ll witness his rise from the grave, learn how the feat was accomplished, and hear the pathetic conclusion to the story of Professor Nixon.

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