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

  • Self-Purchase: The Price of Freedom from Slavery

    Can you put a monetary value on your freedom? South Carolina’s early laws trapped enslaved people in a life of servitude, but a handful of them managed to generate sufficient cash to buy their own freedom. Today we’ll explore the phenomenon of self-purchase and review a few cases of men and women whose perseverance unlocked the yoke of slavery.

  • Private Manumission: An Intimate Path to Freedom

    The laws of early South Carolina allowed slave owners to set free an unknown number of men, women, and children with little or no interference from the government. Today we’ll explore the phenomenon of private manumission from the colonial era to the legislative interventions of the early nineteenth century that restricted and finally prohibited this traditional practice.

  • Public Manumission: A Reward for Remarkable Service

    On several occasions between 1708 and 1822, the South Carolina General Assembly purchased the freedom of enslaved people who had performed remarkable acts of public service. These public manumissions were not simply altruistic expressions of gratitude, but also the calculated efforts of nervous white lawmakers to cultivate feelings of loyalty within the enslaved majority population.

  • Defining Charleston’s Free People of Color

    Freedom and slavery were the opposing states of being that defined the lives of most early Charlestonians, but our community also hosted a small population of people who lived between those legal poles. The city’s “free people of color” enjoyed a modicum of liberty, but the law viewed their skin color and ancestry as a bar from full civil rights.

  • The Carolina Coffee House of London

    From the 1670s to the 1830s, the Carolina Coffee House in London’s Birchin Lane served as the epicenter for conversations about this colony and state, its opportunities and challenges, and its residents. To better understand its important role in Charleston’s past, let’s review the history of this old coffee shop and take a virtual stroll through Birchin Lane.

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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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