Charleston Time Machine
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.
Recent Trips in Charleston's History
PREVIEW: Sullivan's Island: Property of the Crown and State, 1663–1953
Sullivan’s Island holds a unique place in the history of South Carolina. Reserved in the late seventeenth century as a maritime lookout, quarantine station, and military post, this attractive barrier island remained in the public domain for nearly three centuries. Private residences began appearing on Sullivan’s Island in 1791, but their owners enjoyed little more than squatter’s rights for the next 162 years. The island’s colonial legacy, mis-remembered by later generations, precluded the possibility of private ownership until a 1953 law altered the legal landscape.
William Ah Sang and the Chinese Question of 1869
In the wake of the American Civil War, planters across the South considered the pros and cons of recruiting Chinese laborers to sustain the region’s agriculture traditions. An interstate summit on the topic, held in Memphis in 1869, stoked racial fears and produced mixed results. While some communities moved forward with plans to hire thousands of “Celestials,” South Carolina planters soon rejected the premise. Four years later, William Ah Sang, a connoisseur of Asian tea, became Charleston’s first resident of Chinese ancestry, opening the door for generations of urban immigrants.
The Hard: Colonial Charleston's Forgotten Maritime Center
A windowless warehouse on Charleston’s Union Pier conceals a forgotten site of historical significance. Near the present southwest corner of Concord and Pritchard Streets, a projecting point of sand and shells known as “the Hard” or “Rhett’s Point” served as a focal point of maritime activity from the dawn of recorded history in South Carolina to the turn of the nineteenth century. Subsequent wharf construction and landfill obscured the site’s colorful history, but the proposed redevelopment of Union Pier presents an opportunity to revive memories of an important local landmark.
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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!