Podcast Premiere: Invasion 1706!

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my first podcast: a digital audio version of my recent “Invasion of 1706” radio program.  You can listen to the program here on the Charleston Time Machine whenever you like, and soon you’ll be able to subscribe to my podcast feed through iTunes and other podcatching services.

Invasion 1706: South Carolina vs. France and Spain


Or, click here to listen: Invasion 1706: South Carolina vs. France and Spain

In the late summer of 1706, a combined force of French warships and Spanish soldiers sailed into Charleston harbor with the intention of destroying the town and driving the English out of Carolina. Over the course of an action-packed week, the South Carolina militia faced their foes on and land and at sea, and lost only one man in their heroic effort to repel their enemies. Few people remember this dramatic episode in our history, but it was an important victory that helped secure the future of this fledgling colony.

This first podcast, which was also my first WYLA radio program in early October 2016, is 49 minutes long, which is entirely too much!  It was a pilot episode, if you will, in which I learned a host of technical skills and worked far too long on the script.  Subsequent episodes will be about half that length because the Charleston Time Machine is a one-man operation.

Now that I’ve overcome the technical hurdles to launch this first podcast, additional episodes should follow on a weekly basis (more or less).  Thanks for listening!

January 2017 Programs

time_machine_jan_2017Happy New Year!  Podcast versions of my new radio programs will launch in just a few days, so look for details in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, I’m continuing to deliver programs in person around the community.  If you can’t make it to one of these events, have no fear!  A radio and podcast version will appear here in due time.  There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes here at the Charleston Time Machine, so all of your patience and encouragement is greatly appreciated.  It’s going to be a great year for Charleston!

I’ll kick-off the month with an encore presentation of a program titled “The Grand Skedaddle: Refugee Conditions in Civil War South Carolina.”  This event is part of a monthly series at the John’s Island Regional Library, in conjunction with 8th grade students from Haut Gap Middle School, next door to the library.  Instead of focusing on the military and political aspects of the war, like most textbooks do, we’re going to look at the plight of the local civilian population—both free and enslaved—during the years 1862 through 1865, when nearby military actions forced thousands of people to flee from the coastline.  Join us at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, January 10th, and the second Tuesday of each month during the school year.

Next, I’m developing a new program in response to the popularity of the Broadway sensation, Hamilton.  As you might know, this hip-hop musical focuses on the life story of Alexander Hamilton, and includes Charleston native John Laurens, Hamilton’s closest friend, as a principal character.  Laurens dies near the end of Act I in the musical, but his story is nearly as fascinating as that of Hamilton.  In my new program, titled “Hamilton and John Laurens: A Closer Look,” I’ll talk a bit about Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton and about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical adaptation, and then I’ll focus on John Laurens and his remarkable aspirations during the American Revolution.  Laurens is best remembered for his unsuccessful efforts to create a “black regiment” of soldiers in South Carolina, and for his untimely, futile death in the autumn of 1782.  But there is another remarkable, secret side of Laurens’s career that historians have missed.  Join me on Thursday, January 12th at 6 p.m. to hear more about this mystery!

Finally, I’ll end the month with a bit of humor and spirits to lighten your winter-time blues.  In “The Language of Libations in Early Charleston,” we’ll review all the specialized vocabulary you’d need to time-travel back to a colonial-era tavern and order the proper beverage to warm your bones.  We’ll look at the forgotten varieties of beer, wine, cordials, and spirits that were available here in the early days of Charleston, and we’ll celebrate the timeless wit of Ben Franklin’s 1736 “Drinker’s Dictionary.”  Sorry—no strong beverages will be on tap, but good cheer will be free to all who join us at the Charleston County Public Library  at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31st.

December 2016 Programs

time_machine_dec_2016In my final post for 2016, I’m happy to report that new features are just around the bend.  I’ll continue presenting new programs in person, and the weekly radio shows will continue, but in January I’m going to roll out podcast and audio or video versions of all programs.  My schedule is getting busier every day, so please pardon my brevity in getting this news out.

Since “cold” temperatures begin rolling into the Lowcountry in December, I’ve looking forward to resting in front of a warm fireplace, with the relaxing sounds of a pine log crackling away.  That image got me thinking about how our ancestors once relied on wood for heating, as well as cooking, washing, and a host of other tasks.  Once upon a time, a huge amount of labor and money went into the business of felling, sawing, splitting, and carting of wood (and coal).  It was part of the daily routine for everyone here, regardless of one’s social standing or income.  In the age of electricity and natural gas, we don’t give such business a second thought, but it once occupied  a huge amount of local resources.  With that in mind, I’d like to raise awareness of the firewood (and coal) industry in our community, so I’m constructing a program called “Friendly Fire: Fuel for Cooking and Heating in Early Charleston.”  If you’re not otherwise engaged on Tuesday, December 20th at 6 p.m., please join me at the Charleston County Public Library for a free history lesson.  I promise it’ll be warm inside.

The holiday season is upon us, so I’m excited to bring you two Christmas-themed radio shows this month.  On December 16th 2016 I’ll tell the swashbuckling tale of Spanish treasure brought into Charleston harbor on December 16th 1744 by the HMS Rose, a story that might work well as a movie someday. . . .  And on December 24th, I’ll introduce you to an 1852 novella by Charleston author William Gilmore Simms, titled A Golden Christmas: A Tale of Lowcountry Life.  Follow this link to find more information about the Charleston Time Machine.

As always, please keep an eye on my Calendar of Events for the upcoming schedule, and remember that you can always “follow” this blog (see upper right) and receive all the news via email.


November 2016 Programs

time_machine_nov_2016Apologies to all for recent schedule changes caused by the ripple effects of Hurricane Matthew last month.  I’m also cancelling this month’s encore performance of “Opera in Charleston, Part 2,” which I had scheduled for November 10th at 6 p.m.  The library will be closing early that day (in advance of the Veteran’s Day holiday), so the opera program cannot take place.  That’s my fault. Hopefully these schedule snafus will disappear soon and we can get back to enjoying an uninterrupted flow of events.  Thanks for your patience!

Back by popular demand, this month I’m repeating “The Forgotten Pleasure Gardens of Early Charleston” at the Hurd / St. Andrew’s Region Library off Sam Rittenburg Blvd., on Monday the 14th at 6 p.m.  If you’re interested in the early social life of our community, and have an interest in horticulture, this program is for you.  We’ll look at the summer “pleasure gardens” where folks strolled under the moonlight while enjoying their favorite beverages and listening to their favorite music, and we’ll look at how time and “progress” have rolled over these once-bucolic sites.

fort-moultrie-fort-sumter-national-monument-quarterOn Thursday the 17th I’ll be at the Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island to help celebrate the release of the newest U.S. quarter featuring an image of Fort Moultrie and Sergeant William Jasper. The unveiling ceremony starts at 10:30 a.m., and at 12 noon I’ll give a lecture titled “Sergeant William Jasper: An Enigmatic Hero” inside the fort’s visitor’s center at 1214 Middle Street.  Both of these events are free and open to the public.

This month marks the 250th anniversary of the first concerts of the first musical organization in America—Charleston’s St. Cecilia Society.  You may have heard of this ancient society before because they’re still around, to a degree, although it’s best known today as the most exclusive and secretive social club in town.  But few remember that back in 1766, the St. Cecilia Society began as a subscription concert organization, and it continued to present an annual series of fashionable concerts through the spring of 1820.  During that half-century of operation, the St. Cecilia Society of Charleston was the premier musical organization in America, and it drew musicians away from the northern cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.  Why did the St. Cecilia Society stop giving concerts in 1820, and why did Charleston cease to be the musical capital of the United States?  To learn the answer to these questions, you can either read a book I wrote about this topic, called Votaries of Apollo, or you can join me for a free lecture titled “The 250th Anniversary of Charleston’s First Orchestra,” here at the Main Library on Tuesday, November 29th at 6 p.m.

Don’t forget that the Charleston Time Machine is on the radio as well!  Join me for a weekly slice of local history on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. on WYLA, 97.5 FM (rebroadcast at 11 a.m. on Sundays, too).  If you’re outside the range of our library’s new radio station, you can find the live feed by going to YouTube.com and searching for “WYLA live stream.”

Check out the Calendar of Events for information about upcoming radio topics.  I hope to have all the recent shows available as podcasts by next month—stay tuned for details!


Radio Update

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, the radio version of the Charleston Time Machine was temporarily blown off the air.  I’m returning to the airwaves this weekend, however, at a new time:  11 a.m. Saturday mornings, with an encore performance on Sunday mornings at 11.

Set your radio dial to WYLA, 97.5 FM, or go to YouTube.com and search for “WYLA live stream.”

This week’s show is dedicated to Lowcountry hurricane history—the first of a two part series covering the major storms of the past 346 years.

For the latest updates to the broadcast calendar, keep your eyes on my Calendar of Events, or follow the Charleston Time Machine on Facebook.  Thanks for listening!

October 2016 Programs

time_machine_oct_2016_updatedFollowing the debut of my new radio show, I’ll continue to give live presentations around the community each month.  For the moment, however, the radio topics and live topics do not overlap, which means more work for me. In the coming weeks or months I’ll streamline the schedule as I settle into a new routine. I also need to establish a new blog routine in order to make the most of my very busy schedule.  In the meantime, please take a look at this month’s offerings on my Calendar of Events and please tune in Monday evenings at 8 p.m. for the Charleston Time Machine on WYLA, 97.5 FM (or the live stream on YouTube if you’re not in downtown Charleston).

Radio Debut on WYLA

Tune in Monday evening, October 3rd, at 8 p.m. for the radio debut of the Charleston Time Machine.  That’s right—here at the Charleston County Public Library, we have a new radio station, WYLA, 97.5 FM LP, and I’m committed to producing a weekly show dedicated to local history.


My first episode is a telling of the “Invasion of 1706,” and I’m already working on the next show.  As a one-man operation, I’m working long hours to get this new venture started, but hopefully the process will become easier in the coming months.

For those of you who don’t live in the immediate Charleston area, WYLA will soon (we hope) have a permanent Internet location (that is, a dedicated URL).  For the moment, however, you can find a live stream of WYLA content on YouTube.  Just go to YouTube.com and perform a search for “WYLA live stream.”  In the list of results from that search, click on the item that includes a red rectangle around the red text “Live Now.”

Once I’ve produced a few shows, I’ll then tackle the task of turning these audio recordings into podcasts that you can download and listen at your convenience.  For the moment, however, I’m going to take this one step at a time!

Voices of the Santee Delta

On Tuesday, September 27th, I’ll have the honor of introducing the curators of a recent oral history project aimed at documenting the cultural legacy of the Santee Delta region of coastal South Carolina.  Bud Hill and Bob Raynor, who spearheaded this important work, will describe the goals of the project and then introduce us to several of the participants who will share their memories and reflections on the significance of this unique landscape.

The Santee Delta, straddling the river in both Charleston and Georgetown counties, is a vast wilderness rich in history as well as natural beauty.  Over the past century, thousands of acres that were once dedicated to rice cultivation have been transformed into wildlife preserves for all to enjoy and to learn about our shared past.  By capturing the memories of people involved in this work, Voices of the Santee Delta seeks to honor the legacy of the past and to educate future generations of South Carolinians.

Voices of the Santee Delta is a collaborative project undertaken by the Village Museum in McClellanville and the South Carolina Historical Society (SCHS), with grant funding from SC Humanities.  The oral histories collected in this project will be archived by the SCHS and made available to the public online through the Lowcountry Digital Library.

Please join us for this free program on Tuesday, September 27th at 5:30 p.m., at the Charleston County Public Library auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401.

September 2016 Programs

Time_Machine_Sept_2016What do opera, slavery, and foreign invasions have in common?  First, each of these seemingly-unrelated topics contributed mightily to the storied fabric of Charleston’s cultural heritage. Secondly, as you might have guessed, each of these topics will be featured in this month’s calendar of events.  Thirdly, there is more cross-fertilization between these topics than you might imagine, and I guarantee you’ll find links between them all if you join me for these upcoming presentations.  Charleston history is indeed a strange and wonderful mix of good and evil, the banal and the unexpected.

Opera In Charleston, Part 2: After the Revolutions

Continuing our series on the history of opera in the Palmetto City, we begin in the aftermath of the American Revolution, when most people in South Carolina had little use for the dramatic arts. Thanks to the influx of refugees fleeing revolutions in France and Saint Domingue (Haiti), however, Charleston’s cultural life was soon enlivened by a number of talented performers looking to start their careers anew.  Over the next quarter century, the city’s theaters resounded with French operatic excerpts, mingled with the latest melodramatic novelties from the London stage and a bit of nationalistic tension for good measure.

  • Saturday, 10 September at 1 p.m., 2nd Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401


Escaping Slavery in Early South Carolina

Last autumn I created a summary of the four principal paths out of slavery in eighteenth and early nineteenth century South Carolina.  The response was very positive, and the program led to a number of very interesting and productive conversations about some little-known aspects of slavery.  In response, I wrote an essay about the topic and made a recorded version of my presentation (see my post from September 2015).  I’m happy to report that I’m going to offer the program again on John’s Island, where I hope we’ll be joined by a number of 8th-grade students from Haut Gap Middle School!

  • Tuesday, 13 September at 11 a.m., John’s Island Regional Library, 3531 Maybank Highway, Johns Island, SC 29455


Invasion 1706: South Carolina vs. France and Spain

This month we celebrate the 310th anniversary of one of the most dramatic and defining moments in South Carolina history, which almost no one remembers.  In September 1706 a fleet of French vessels carrying Spanish soldiers and their Indian allies sailed into Charleston harbor and curtly demanded that the English surrender the town.  The English colonists laughed at this request, rolled up their sleeves, and spent the ensuing six days driving the invaders out of Carolina.  Thanks to the valiant efforts of our militia, and the strength of our fortifications, Charleston was not lost, and the colony of South Carolina persevered.  It’s an exciting story of action and international intrigue that every Sandlapper should know!

  • Wednesday, 21 September at 6 p.m., Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401

Questions? Drop me a line at butlern[at]ccpl.org or call 843–805–6968 for more information.

August 2016 Programs

Time_Machine_August_2016I’m pleased to announce the premier of two new programs focusing on two very different aspects of early Charleston history.  In the first, I’ll return to my artistic roots and commence a series of lectures on an important part of the musical culture of the Palmetto City.  In the second, I’ll unveil the results of some recent ground-penetrating radar aimed at identifying subterranean traces of Charleston’s early fortifications.  It’s back to school season, and I’m winding my Time Machine back to the early days of South Carolina history.  Many more details to follow soon!

Opera in Charleston, Part 1: The Colonial Years

The first opera performed in North America debuted in Charleston in early 1735, and  our city hosted many more productions of English musical theater in the subsequent four decades.  In this program, the first of a seven-part series, I’ll explore the music, the performers, the venues, and the audiences involved in Charleston’s first tentative steps towards embracing this popular European art form.   Whether you’re an opera fan or not, this is an important and under-studied aspect of our community’s cultural heritage.  And because it’s the beginning of a new series, I’m offering two chances to hear the first installment.

  • Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 1 p.m.

Both events will be held in the Charleston County Public Library Main Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401.

Searching for Colonial Charleston’s

South Wall and Moat

In the early 1700s the 62-acre center of urban Charleston was surrounded by a trapezoid-shaped system of walls and moats.  The approximate locations of the north, west, and east walls are known, but the location of the south wall and moat is a bit of a mystery.  We know it was roughly parallel to Vanderhorst’s Creek, which is now Water Street, but details are lacking.  This summer members of the Mayor’s Walled City Task Force spent an afternoon trying to locate these features using ground penetrating radar in an area now used as a parking lot by First Baptist Church and School.  Did the technology reveal the lost location of the wall and moat?  To learn the answer, you’ll have to join me for an exciting new program where I’ll describe the process and reveal the graphic results of this investigation.

  • Tuesday, 30 August 2016 at 6 p.m., at Charleston County Public Library Main Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401.

Questions? Drop me a line at butlern[at]ccpl.org or call 843–805–6968 for more information.