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

  • From Intendant to Mayor: The Evolution of Charleston’s Executive Office

    The mayor of Charleston is a prestigious officer who commands respect throughout our community, but that hasn’t always been the case. Nearly two centuries ago, the city’s executive evolved from a nearly powerless, part-time, unsalaried intendant, to a powerful, full-time, salaried mayor. Today we’ll compare and contrast those titles and trace the gradual accretion of powers that define 21st-century Charleston’s most visible citizen.

  • Grief, Crime, and Mercy in Colonial Charleston: The Story of Elizabeth McQueen, Part 3

    Sentenced to hang in 1747, Elizabeth McQueen cried out for mercy from the Charleston jail. Her personal grief and Indian customs had been misrepresented as willful murder. Reviewing the facts of her case, the governor and his advisors were drawn into the chasm between patriarchal law and the realities of a woman’s life on the colonial frontier.

  • Grief, Crime, and Mercy in Colonial Charleston: The Story of Elizabeth McQueen, Part 2

    Accused of having murdered her newborn child, Elizabeth McQueen was arrested and transported to Charleston to stand trial in 1747. Contemporary documents allow us to reconstruct many of the experiences she endured, from incarceration within the prison under the care of a hot-tempered marshal, to the colony’s makeshift courtroom in a tavern where a brief trial condemned her to an ignominious death.

  • Grief, Crime, and Mercy in Colonial Charleston: The Story of Elizabeth McQueen, Part 1

    When an unmarried young woman of Native American ancestry lost a newborn child in 1747, her white neighbors on the South Carolina frontier interpreted her grief as a mask for clandestine guilt and summoned the law. Today we’ll begin to reconstruct the story of Elizabeth McQueen’s journey from “innocence and sobriety” to arrest, humiliation, and incarceration in colonial Charleston.

  • The Auction Sales of Enslaved Residents in Colonial Era Charleston

    Charleston was once the most active marketplace for enslaved people in North America. While incoming Africans were sold from the vessels that brought them, enslaved people already living in the Lowcountry during the colonial era were commonly sold at at a long-forgotten, open-air auction site within the heart of Charleston known as “the usual place.”

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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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