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

  • Careening across the Lowcountry in the Age of Sail

    The waterways of coastal South Carolina once teemed with a large variety of wooden sailing vessels, all of which required frequent maintenance to keep their hulls in ship shape. The work of careening, or rotating a vessel to expose its lower hull, was difficult and dangerous, but so routine that few records of this work survive. In this episode of the Charleston Time Machine, we’ll explore the techniques, locations, and laborers involved in one of the Lowcountry’s least-remembered maritime traditions.

  • Charleston’s Second Ice Age: Rise of the Machines

    Ice was a summer luxury in antebellum Charleston, brought southward in huge blocks by ships from New England. The invention of ice-making machines after the Civil War transformed the industry, but a sour economy and consumer skepticism delayed local adoption of the new technology. Cheaper “artificial ice” finally debuted in the Palmetto City in 1888, while deliveries of imported “natural ice” slowly declined. The rise of mechanized ice production at the turn of the twentieth century transformed food and beverage habits across the Lowcountry, and established an appetite for a cooler, modern lifestyle.

  • Clementia Mineral Spring: Ghost Town that Never Was

    Along a shady stretch of Highway 162 in Hollywood, South Carolina, stands a humble marker for Clementia Village. Local lore describes the site as the location of forgotten “ghost town,” but a search for its history reveals a different story. Formerly a part of a large rice plantation, the land bubbled with a font of spring water after the earthquake of 1886. The property owner marketed the wholesome, restorative powers of the mineral-rich water during the early years of the twentieth century, but the site devolved under a cloud during the turbulent Jazz Age.  

  • The Charleston Tar-and-Feathers Incident of 1775

    Like most American colonists during the turbulent spring of 1775, the people of South Carolina were anxious about British military preparations to suppress the first sparks of the Revolution. When two Irishmen in Charleston expressed views that offended their pro-American neighbors in June, an elite secret committee ordered the pair to be stripped, covered in tar and feathers, paraded through the town, and exiled. Historians have identified the two victims as loyalists to the British Crown, but the extant evidence suggests a more nuanced interpretation: Religious discrimination, inflamed by political paranoia, fueled this episode of vigilante injustice.

  • Navigating the Bar of Charleston Harbor: Gateway to the Atlantic

    Ship traffic flowing in and out of Charleston Harbor has played a vital role in the local economy for more than 350 years. For most of that time, however, a network of shifting sandbars at the mouth of the harbor complicated the passage of all large vessels. Early maritime trade blossomed with the aid of skilled pilots and navigational buoys and beacons, but natural silting threatened to choke commercial traffic in the late nineteenth century. Thanks to the construction of an artificial channel through two massive stone jetties, South Carolina’s principal port continues to flourish.

  • Brewing Beer for the Carolina Station during the Era of Captain George Anson

    In 1724, the Royal Navy sent Captain George Anson with HMS Scarborough to protect the rice-producing colony of South Carolina. British sailors assigned to the Carolina Station received a gallon of strong beer each day, but supplies in the port of Charles Town were limited. Captain Anson served his king and likely made a small profit by operating a brewery in an orange grove on his Cooper River property, now called Ansonborough. We'll explore the logistics, ingredients, and labor involved in colonial-era brewing and distill the archival evidence into a new, historically-informed brew. 

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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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