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 Slippery Enchanter of 1876: Charles Barker Nixon

    Over the course of a few weeks, this flamboyant, bohemian showman enthralled and terrified the local population by holding séances and speaking of ancient Egyptian prophecies. Nixon’s story is a tragi-comical tale set in the depths of the Reconstruction-era Charleston, about a mysterious enchanter who baffled the nation by charging admission to his funeral and inviting spectators to watch him rise from the grave.

  • Demilitarizing Urban Charleston, 1783–1789

    For the first century of its existence, the urban landscape of Charleston was dominated by an evolving ring of fortifications designed to protect the city against potential invasion by Spanish, French, and later British forces. Our provincial legislature repeatedly devoted large sums of tax revenue for the construction and repair of walls, moats, bastions, and related works, resulting in what was undoubtedly the largest public works program in colonial South Carolina. Despite the impressive scale of this work, however, Charleston’s modern streetscape reveals scarcely any physical trace of those early fortifications. If the city once bristled with cannon, walls, moats, and drawbridges, how and when were such features scoured from the historical landscape?

  • The Men who Built St. Michael’s Church, 1752–1754

    You’ve probably heard by now that on June 19th, 2018, Charleston’s City Council adopted a resolution “recognizing, denouncing, and apologizing on behalf of the City of Charleston for the city’s role in regulating, supporting, and fostering” the institution of slavery. In the course of the debate in Council Chambers on that date, Mayor John Tecklenberg made reference to the enslaved laborers who built our present City Hall. To be sure, the surviving documentary record demonstrates that building contractors active in Charleston before the abolition of slavery in 1865 regularly used enslaved laborers.

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