Charleston Time Machine

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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

  • Colleton Square: Prelude to Market Street

    Colleton Square is a place-name rarely heard in Charleston today, but millions of people tramp through its historic boundaries every year. Granted to an aristocratic English family in 1681, the creek-side tract was subdivided in the 1740s by investors who envisioned a residential and commercial neighborhood fronting a working canal. Their efforts flourished after the removal of intrusive fortifications, but the subsequent transformation of the canal into Market Street at the dawn of the nineteenth century obscured the character and identity of the colonial square.

  • The Charleston Gunpowder Plot of 1731, Part 2

    During their year-long incarceration, the criminal trio accused of plotting to blow up Charleston’s powder magazine had ample time to argue among themselves and plan their escape from the insecure jail. Only two of the villains survived to face the king’s law in the spring of 1732, prompting suspicion of foul play at the prison. In the dramatic conclusion of this explosive story, we’ll learn who escaped the gallows and why the government’s efforts to close the dangerous magazine dragged on to the summer of 1746.

  • The Charleston Gunpowder Plot of 1731, Part 1

    Every successful thief (and screenwriter) knows that a daring robbery requires a powerful and well-coordinated distraction. That criminal axiom was evident in Charleston during the spring of 1731, when a gang of house-breakers allegedly planned to blow up the town’s brick magazine used for the storage of gunpowder. Authorities foiled the plot by arresting and executing the villains, but the inherently dangerous magazine in modern Cumberland Street persisted. Although citizens campaigned to move the powder elsewhere, a suite of issues delayed the completion of a more remote magazine until 1746.

  • Drama at the Court Room in 1735: Charleston’s First Theater

    The earliest recorded performances of drama, dance, and opera in Charleston occurred during the late winter of 1735, when a group of thespians advertised a brief series of ticketed events at a familiar venue. Their stage was a multipurpose room within a tavern at the northeast corner of Broad and Church Streets, which South Carolina’s provincial government rented periodically for judicial proceedings. These “Court Room” events were not the first dramatic productions in the colony, but they formed an innovative prelude to the creation of Charleston’s first purpose-built theater.

  • A Hawaiian Band in Charleston, 1901–2

    Charlestonians got their first taste of Hawaiian culture in December 1901, when a band of Pacific Islanders represented the newly-acquired territory at the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition. Local audiences were entranced by their mellifluous songs and the rhythmic gestures of scantily-clad hula dancers swaying to curious sounds produced by strumming ukeleles and guitars played in a most unconventional manner. After performing for segregated audiences—Black and White—in the Palmetto City, the roving Hawaiians trekked inland to impart a lasting influence on the vernacular music of the American South.

  • Union Pier: Mobility Nexus through the Centuries

    The site known as Union Pier has been a transportation crossroads for centuries past and potentially continuing well into the future. Now slated for redevelopment, the seventy-acre industrial complex on the Cooper River waterfront includes the vestiges of historic trails used by earlier generations to facilitate access between land and water via streets, alleys, ferries, streetcars, and freight trains. On the next episode of Charleston Time Machine, we’ll review the accretion and deletion of various pathways and consider their cumulative role in shaping the future landscape.

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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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