The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Signs of the Times

By Juliana Daugherty, with Audio by Nina Earnest     Alexander Graham Bell has long been praised as an icon of American industry. A Scottish-born immigrant with an innovative spirit and a dogged work ethic, he is famously credited with the invention of the first telephone. Less famously, he invented the graphophone, the photophone, and […]

The People’s Party

By Melissa J. Gismondi, with Audio by Nina Earnest     On March 4, 1829, president-elect Andrew Jackson was probably not in the mood to party, although it was his inauguration day. At almost sixty-two years old, Jackson was frail and in poor health. He was also mourning the death of his beloved wife, Rachel, […]

Better to Burn

In the 1870s, a rural Pennsylvania physician named Francis LeMoyne thought he had found a way to solve a very real problem: outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria. He thought the outbreaks were a cycle that could be broken. His solution was simple: instead of burying the bodies of the dead where they could decay and contaminate […]

Tell the Truth…but don’t publish it.

  It’s probably safe to say that most Americans have read–or at least been assigned–one of Mark Twain’s many books and essays: Huck Finn, Jim and Tom Sawyer all remain iconic literary figures. However, very few Americans have ever read perhaps Twain’s most devastating piece of satire: “The United States of Lyncherdom.” As with much […]

What We’re Reading

As producers are putting together each new show, we read…a lot. Here are a few of the works that helped shape this show.   African American Satire: The Sacredly Profane Novel Darryl Dickson-Carr University of Missouri, 2001 Dickson-Carr argues that many works by major authors included Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and Ishmael Reed, are first and […]


Listener Margot from Washington, D.C. left a question for us on this very website. It had to do with something she’s noticed about the state of modern satire> Why does it seem like liberals have a monopoly on satire? Why isn’t there a conservative version of the Daily Show or Colbert Report or Last Week […]

Puck of the draw

By Emily Gadek The election of 1884 was absolutely ripe for satire. Voters were tired of talking about the Civil War — a tried and true campaign strategy for the Republican Party, which had been in power for nearly 25 years. Without the war, politics got personal — fast. And both major candidates had skeletons […]

San Francisco vs. John Muir

In 1906, an enormous earthquake rocked San Francisco. Much of the city was reduced to rubble. But the rebuilding effort that followed offered city officials the opportunity to realize a long-time goal– a new and expanded water supply. For years, city officials had been wanting to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley 167 miles away in […]

The Wilderness Returns

We return to a time when Americans were mired in civil war. Ulysses Grant had taken the citadel of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Philip Sheridan was raging through the bountiful Shenandoah Valley, and William T. Sherman was getting ready to march through Georgia. Wherever the Union Army went, it stripped the fields and slaughtered the livestock. For […]

Going it Alone

For most women in the 1800s, the path to a happy life, as they saw it, was pretty straightforward: marriage. Take these diary entries from two New England women, Catherine Sedgwick and Gail Hamilton: “I certainly think a happy marriage is the highest condition of human life.” “Marriage, in its truest type, is a spiritualizing […]