19th Century

The Photography of Frances Benjamin Johnston

Fannie Johnston is tied to SO MANY people and events that we have talked about on the show before. She’s like a history nexus point. And she was able to make a very nice living for herself as a photographer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

SYMHC Live: William Mumler's Spirit Photography

In the 1860s, Mumler rose to fame as a photographer of spirits. Whether Mumler was earnest or was just fleecing people is a tricky question, in part because while evidence mounted against him, he always professed his innocence. 

The Greenbrier Ghost

The story of Zona Heaster Shue's death and subsequent appearances to her mother as an apparition are often referred to as the only case in the U.S. when a ghost’s testimony convicted a murderer. But of course, there’s a lot more to the story. 

The Catacombs of Paris

The Catacombs contain the bones of an estimated 6 to 7 million people. Their history is really two interconnected stories of mines and human remains, because in the 18th century, Paris was dealing with two huge problems simultaneously.

Robert Liston, Surgical Pioneer

Liston is most known for a tale about how multiple deaths resulted from one of his surgeries. But that means that his entire biography as a surgeon is dominated by the apocryphal events of one day. So today we’ll unpack his career and ethics.



The Great English Convent Case of 1869

This case fed an already growing anti-Catholic movement in England in the 1860s. Additionally, it played on the shock of women being incredibly cruel to one another – something that was even used by the plaintiff’s legal team when speaking to the jury.

Sarah Josepha Hale & Godey’s Lady’s Book

Godey’s Lady’s Book was the most popular magazine in the U.S. in the middle of the 19th century. Although it’s most well-known for its hand-tinted fashion plates, its content included poetry, fiction, household tips, music, and etiquette.

The Rise of the Traffic Light

There are multiple contenders when it comes to the question of who invented the traffic light. This episode looks at a few of the moments in traffic light history that got us to where we are today, as well as what made them a necessity in the first place. 

The Peterloo Massacre

The Peterloo Massacre took place during a peaceful protest for parliamentary reform in Manchester, England. And there was a lot feeding into why people in Britain, and specifically in the region around Manchester, thought that reform was needed.

William Maclure and New Harmony’s Boatload of Knowledge

When Robert Owen founded his utopian community, he wanted to have the best minds he could find running the educational system. He recruited William Maclure, who in turn brought many great minds with him. Their boat was nicknamed the Boatload of Knowledge.