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 Forgotten Akin Family of Charleston

    From modest beginnings in the 1690s to great wealth in the 1750s and extinction in the 1840s, the lesser-known Akin family of South Carolina left an important legacy on Meeting Street that most of Charleston has long forgotten. Before we can appreciate the history of the Akin Foundling Hospital, we need to learn a bit about the family fortunes that inspired our community’s first and only home for motherless infants.

  • Nearly 1,000 Cargos: The Legacy of Importing Africans into Charleston

    Between 1670 and 1808, nearly one thousand cargos of enslaved Africans entered the port of Charleston. This fact represents one of the most important chapters in the history of our community, but we the people of Charleston still struggle to wrap our collective brains around this weighty topic. How can we tell this important story to our children and to the millions of visitors who come here each year?

  • Under False Colors: The Politics of Gender Expression in Post-Civil War Charleston​

    In 1868, the City of Charleston passed an ordinance making it illegal for a person to appear in public dressed in a manner “not becoming his or her sex.” Why would they do such a thing? The answer is wrapped in the confusing world of post-Civil War Charleston, a place filled with Union soldiers enforcing federal laws, formerly-enslaved people starting new lives, and members of the old guard trying to make sense of a topsy-turvy world.

  • The Heads of the Two Toms in 1745

    Has this ever happened to you: There’s a knock at your front door late at night. You open the door to find a messenger with a letter and a soggy burlap bag. You open the letter—it’s news about a series of recent murders. You look inside the bag and find two human heads. What do you do? If you’re the governor of South Carolina, and its January of 1745, you breathe a sigh of relief, and say “Thank you—I’ve been expecting these.” Today we’ll investigate the story of “the heads of the two Toms,” so make yourself comfortable, and don’t forget to tip the delivery boy.

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