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

  • PREVIEW: A Hawaiian Band in Charleston, 1901–2

    Charlestonians got their first taste of Hawaiian culture in December 1901, when a band of Pacific Islanders represented the newly-acquired territory at the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition. Local audiences were entranced by their mellifluous songs and the rhythmic gestures of scantily-clad hula dancers swaying to curious sounds produced by strumming ukeleles and guitars played in a most unconventional manner. After performing for segregated audiences—Black and White—in the Palmetto City, the roving Hawaiians trekked inland to impart a lasting influence on the vernacular music of the American South.

  • Union Pier: Mobility Nexus through the Centuries

    The site known as Union Pier has been a transportation crossroads for centuries past and potentially continuing well into the future. Now slated for redevelopment, the seventy-acre industrial complex on the Cooper River waterfront includes the vestiges of historic trails used by earlier generations to facilitate access between land and water via streets, alleys, ferries, streetcars, and freight trains. On the next episode of Charleston Time Machine, we’ll review the accretion and deletion of various pathways and consider their cumulative role in shaping the future landscape.

  • Surf Bathing at Sullivan's Island In the 19th Century

    Frolicking in the ocean surf is today a familiar activity along South Carolina beaches, but recreational swimming was a novelty in centuries past. “Surf bathing” first achieved local popularity on Sullivan’s Island in the early 1800s, when the proprietors of oceanfront resorts began providing amenities like “bathing machines” to encourage shy swimmers. While the dearth of appropriate swimwear rendered skinny dipping a constant complaint, a rising tide of ocean tourism during the nineteenth century drew legions of Lowcountry residents and visitors to the island’s beautiful front beach.

  • Cash and Credit in South Carolina before the U.S. Dollar

    Have you ever wondered how South Carolinians paid for goods and services before the advent of the U.S. dollar? The pound sterling formed the basis of their accounts until the 1790s, but the economic realities of frontier life obliged early Carolinians to embrace monetary tools and strategies that deviated from British traditions. For more than a century, inhabitants of the Palmetto State used foreign coins, paper bills, promissory notes, and sophisticated credit schemes that fueled upward mobility and set the stage for the financial systems we use today.

  • Phebe Fletcher: A ‘Magdalene’ in Revolutionary Charleston

    Phebe Fletcher was an intriguing woman of eighteenth-century Charleston whose unconventional lifestyle earned both derision and respect from her neighbors. Born to a respectable family of unknown origin, she was allegedly “seduced” from the bounds of traditional feminine “virtue” and obliged to associate with “vicious” persons, Black and White, to forge an independent career in a patriarchal society. She acquired a colorful reputation as a woman of dubious morals, but Charlestonians long remembered and praised the benevolent care she rendered to ailing soldiers during the American Revolution.

  • Thomas Francis Meagher, Irish Patriot, in Charleston

    Thomas Francis Meagher (1823–1867) was a famous Irish patriot of the mid-nineteenth century whose agitation for independence from Britain led to his exile from the Emerald Isle. After settling in New York in 1852, Meagher visited Charleston several times to deliver public lectures on history and politics. South Carolina’s Irish immigrants embraced him as a national hero during the 1850s, but denounced Meagher in 1861 when he fought against the rebellious Confederate States. On the next episode of Charleston Time Machine, we’ll explore the context and legacy of Meagher’s brief connection to the Palmetto City.

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Listen to the Podcast

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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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