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 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.

  • Keeping Time in Charleston’s Past

    As we conclude the 100th season of “Daylight Saving Time” and set our clocks back to “Standard Time,” let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the concept of time keeping in Charleston’s past. Before the proliferation of wristwatches, smart phones, and international time zones, who determined the official time for our city, and when did we start synchronizing our clocks with those of other communities? Did keeping track of the time of day or night really matter? Join me as we “fall back” in time and review the horological habits of our less hurried past.

  • Buried Alive in Early Charleston​

    In the spirit of Halloween, today’s program concerns one of the most prevalent and legitimate fears held by the people of eighteenth-century Charleston. I’m talking about taphophobia—the fear of being buried alive. Premature burial was a real concern back in that era, when the line between life and death was poorly understood. Today we’ll explore a few cases that are sure to leave a haunting impression.

  • The Akin Foundling Hospital Building

    The Akin Foundling Hospital was a short-lived, long-forgotten municipal institution located on the west side of Meeting Street in Charleston. Established in 1843 at the bequest of Miss Eliza Akin, the building was intended as a refuge for abandoned infants, but the structure’s poor condition hampered its mission. Today we’ll survey the City of Charleston’s management of the institution and look for its ashes after the fire of 1861.

  • 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.

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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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