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 historic landscape of the Wando Mount Pleasant Library

    The site of CCPL’s newest branch has a rich but invisible history. Formerly occupied by Native Americans, the land was controlled by a succession of owners who grew rich from the labors of generations of enslaved people. From forest land in the 20th century to modern suburban development, the land under the Wando Mount Pleasant library holds quite a story.

  • Abraham the Unstoppable, Part 8

    The “Negro” man Abraham used his courage and equestrian skills to blaze a path from slavery to freedom in 1760 during South Carolina’s Cherokee war. In the conclusion of his dramatic story, we find him dressed in a new blue coat, ranging across the colonial frontier with armed troopers, and then back in Charleston conversing with the royal governor.

  • The Decline of Charleston’s Streetcars

    Electric streetcars or trolleys dominated the streets of Charleston at the turn of the twentieth century, but their long reign came to an ignominious end in 1938. Although the rise of the automobile contributed to their demise, the resurgence of the humble omnibus, in a new, mechanized form, played a significant role in transforming the history of mass transit in the Lowcountry.

  • The Rise of Streetcars and Trolleys in Charleston

    Horse-drawn streetcars and electric trolleys might seem like quaint vestiges of the obsolete past, but the debut of Charleston’s street railway in 1866 marked the beginning of a golden age of local mass transit. Since traffic is currently a major issue in the Lowcountry, and May is Mobility Month, let’s take a spin through history on a streetcar named “Progress.”

  • Charleston Alphabet Soup

    Today’s time-traveling menu includes a bowl of Charleston “alphabet soup,” stocked with 25 nuggets of local flavor. Rather than following the story of one person or event as a means of traveling back in Lowcountry history, we’ll sample a series of bite-sized biographical morsels to highlight some of my favorite obscure local personalities, all tastefully arranged to pique your imaginary palette.

  • The Charleston Riot of 1919

    Today marks the centenary of one of the biggest public disturbances in Charleston’s history—the “race riot” of 1919. Late on Saturday, May 10th, young white sailors fueled by racial hatred roamed the city, smashing property and spilling blood as they went. It was an ominous beginning to what became known across the United States as the “Red Summer.”

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Listen to the Podcast

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Don't know how to get a podcast? Let us help! 

Think of a podcast as a radio show that you can get on the internet and listen to, pause, restart, and skip through anytime you want. You have a couple options: You can listen to a podcast through a website like CCPL's, which is called streaming; or you can download the podcast, which means it is saved to your phone, tablet, or computer so you can listen to it anytime -- even without an internet connection. 

To stream the Charleston Time Machine: Visit the Time Machine page and either choose an episode from the player above or choose which story you want to know more about. In each story we embed a player of that episode so you can listen as you read. 

To download: Use an app and it will be delivered each week to your phone, tablet, or computer. You'll get a fresh Time Machine podcast every Friday afternoon! We offer downloads through services you may have heard of before: Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Tune In. Just click on the icon above of the service you want to use and click the subscribe button. It's that easy! 

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