BackStory

The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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THE WIZARD IN THE WHITE CITY

By Eli Wirtschafter How did L. Frank Baum, the man who wrote the Oz books, also lead a transformation in American retail? For that story, listen to the above piece from our Counter Culture episode. But there’s more backstory to how the World’s Fair of 1893 could have inspired Baum — as a writer, and […]

Pulling Out Your Heartstrings

If you’ve been near a TV or radio in the last twenty years, you’ve heard commercials and PSAs asking for charitable donations. After major disasters, celebrities like Billy Bob Thorton make appeals for Red Cross donations, or Alyssa Milano and UNICEF plead for aid on behalf of children worldwide. And of course, there are the […]

What We’re Reading

As we put together each show, we producers read… a lot. Here are a few of the books and articles that helped us put this episode together – some from our guests, some on background.   Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices Sheila Moeschen University of Michigan Press, 2010. Moeschen traces […]

Deaf, Dumb, Blind & Live on Stage!

  By Andrew Parsons When most of us think of charity performance, we  might think of old school telethons, the kind of show where the host shares the stage with a slew of celebrity acts, and perhaps a few of the people who were expected to benefit from the money raised. But there was a […]

Two for the Price of One

In 1993, Bill and Hillary Clinton offered America a two-for-one special: vote Bill into the White House, and the country would get Hillary there too, at no extra charge. Not everyone was eager to snap up the offer. In fact, the idea that Hillary might act as a co-president made Americans more than a little […]

What We’re Reading

As we put together each show, we producers read… a lot. Here are a few of the books that helped us put this episode together – some from our guests, some on background. The Decline and Fall of the American Republic Bruce Ackerman Harvard University Press, 2010. Ackerman traces the growing power of the presidency across […]

No such thing as a free lunch

  Eleven years before the start of the Civil War, as the abolition movement was reaching new heights, a man named William Alcott gathered his supporters together for a discussion about slavery–but not the kind that you’re probably thinking about. “There is no slavery in this world like the slavery of a man to his […]

His “Accidency”

By Andrew Parsons One night in April 1841, John Tyler rose from bed to find out the President of the United States was dead. The news was a big deal because Tyler had been sworn in as William Henry Harrison’s Vice President barely a month before. Harrison, who famously gave the longest inauguration speech in U.S. […]

An Unhappy Franksgiving

By Andrew Parsons These days everyone seems to be concerned with the growing power of the executive branch. But there are limits to the public’s tolerance for a president’s authority…and apparently, it’s the holidays, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt discovered seventy-five years ago when he stood before the press, and casually announced that he was moving […]

Drawing a New World

As early European explorers and colonists fanned out across North and South America, those who stayed in Europe grew more and more curious. What – and who – were these early explorers encountering? Many of the earliest illustrations depicted the people they encountered as savages and cannibals. In some, Indians were painted in front of […]