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 Pirate Executions of 1718

    The mass execution of 49 pirates in Charleston in 1718 is described in historical documents with a frustrating paucity of details. Despite the drama and trauma associated with this event, an air of mystery still hangs over the precise location of the pirates’ last stand. Today we’ll look closely at the local historical evidence and examine the larger legal framework that dictated the demise of so many pirate brethren.

  • The Charleston Pirate Trials of 1718 (Part 2)

    Over the course of 5 weeks in the autumn of 1718, Charleston witnessed 13 trials of 58 men accused of piracy. Clerks made a paper record of this entire courtroom spectacle, most of which was published in 1719, but few people have seen the text of this dramatic narrative. This episode contextualize this valuable historical record and provides a summary of the confusing sequence of trials.

  • The Pirate Hunting Expeditions of 1718

    This month marks the 300th anniversary of one of the dramatic episodes in the history of Charleston—the trial and execution of 49 pirates captured off the Carolina coast in 1718. In this episode, we’ll explore the background preceding these extraordinary trials and focus on the efforts of South Carolina mariners to capture two of the most notorious pirates, Stede Bonnet and Richard Worley, and bring them to justice in Charleston.

  • Thanksgiving in Early Charleston

    It’s Thanksgiving season again, and for most people that means a day of rest, relaxation, and feasting with close friends and family. As a historian working in an old city, I have learned that Thanksgiving also includes at least ten people asking me the same question: “When was the first Thanksgiving in Charleston?” If you don’t mind a quick stroll through the historical record of early South Carolina, however, I’m happy to offer an answer to this annual holiday question.

  • The Tail of Washington’s Horse

    Have you seen the tail of the horse in the portrait of George Washington that hangs in Charleston’s City Hall? Do you know the tale of how that painting’s origin, and why the horse’s rear-end is so prominently displayed? The popular version of this story isn’t entirely accurate rendering, so let’s use the Time Machine travel back to the early 1790s and explore the documentary evidence behind this artistic mystery.

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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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