history

Beverley Goodwin / Creative Commons

Rust is all around us. It's in our cars, our homes, our infrastructure. It's also the subject of Jonathan Waldman's first book, Rust, which introduces us to the people who fight it.

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) / Wikimedia Commons

Shade tobacco came to Connecticut in 1900 from the island of Sumatra, which was beginning to dominate the world of cigar wrappers. The leaf had a light color, delicate texture, and mild flavor that cigar lovers love.

So it seemed like a good idea to grow it somewhere besides Sumatra and the artificial shade concept developed in Florida in the 1890s. Connecticut growers tried it on one-third of an acre in Windsor in 1900, and the result was so good that farmers, in an un-Yankee-ish burst of headlong passion, planted 50 acres in 1901.

The industry grew like shade tobacco -- that is, fitfully -- and woven into its life were the stories of the latest set of immigrants willing to work in cheap and concentrated bursts. We tell you as many of their stories as we can.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

For centuries, female composers have often found themselves overshadowed by their male counterparts. Take Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Anna Magdalena Bach, and Alma Mahler, for example. Their names don't roll off the tongue quite as easily as Felix Mendelssohn, J.S. Bach, and Gustav Mahler's do. 

But why?

White House

A new HBO series raises new questions about murder suspect Robert Durst. He was found not guilty of one murder but remains on law enforcement's radar for others. The HBO series "The Jinx" is not helping his case. We speak with a New York Times reporter about the latest on evidence presented against Durst on the show.

Also, there is a new push to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman on the face of the $20 bill. The executive director of "Women on 20s" joins us to discuss the process and some of the candidates to replace Jackson.

And finally, this weekend President Barack Obama delivered a speech in Selma, AL to mark the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." We'll speak to a local professor who was there with her family.

Sh4rp_i / Creative Commons

Arthur Chu argues that Andrew Jackson is the worst president we've ever had, and his face should be removed from the $20 bill. For starters, Andrew Jackson removed about 46,000 Native Americans from their established homelands to make way for White settlement leaving a "Trail of Tears" of starvation, disease, and death.

That's just the beginning of a long line of horrors: he annexed Florida, executed militia members after the War of 1812, and dismantled the central bank to push wildcat banks. Maybe America has never been a paragon of the ideals we hold dear, and maybe America would rather forget our past than deal with it. 

Ryan King / WNPR

Some of the best professional duckpin bowlers on the east coast gather this weekend for the Eastern Duckpin Classic in Mansfield.

In the 1920s and '30s, Connecticut residents Frank Barber and George Iseman arranged bowling tournaments between Connecticut duckpin bowlers, and some of the best bowlers from Washington, D.C. and Maryland, where the sport originated.

James McCauley / Creative Commons

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a newspaper column about the Brian Williams debacle, except it really wasn't about that. It's about the way a relatively small story about a lie told by a news anchor seems to be the only national conversation we can have about our role in Iraq.

Who Killed the King?

Feb 24, 2015
Chion Wolf / WNPR

One of the things you will learn this hour is how close New Haven came to being a possession of Spain. Even if you think you know the story of the New Haven Regicides, the men who fled to the New World rather than face punishment, by which I mean death, for their complicity in the execution of Charles I, we probably have some surprises for you.  

By we, I mean Lord Charles Spencer, who joins me in studio to talk about his new history, Killers of the King. Spencer writes a very brisk and compelling style of history. To put it another way, if you like "Game of Thrones," it's a pretty easy leap from there to this story. 

Bob Jagendorf / Creative Commons

Everyone’s heard of Coney Island -the Wonder Wheel, the side shows, the miles of sandy beach.

Yet, most of us have never seen it except through the eyes of others, including artists and filmmakers who used it as a prism through which to shape their view.

And, what they saw was a place with both lovers and con men, natural beauty and bawdy amusement, social inclusion and class boundaries.

Coney Island is not an easy place for them to define, so they portrayed what they saw - but also what they wanted it to be.

The Connecticut Gological Survey

Following a series of small earthquakes in the eastern part of Connecticut, WNPR’s Patrick Skahill set out on a mission to find out what was causing so many to occur over such a short period of time. Turns out, to fully understand, you have to go back hundreds of millions of years to a time when our state was being rocked by a massive continental collision. 

David Flores / Creative Commons

After decades of assumption that Harper Lee was a one-book literary legend, the discovery of her novel Go Set a Watchman has the public on an emotional roller coaster. Questions about Lee’s consent, the management of her estate, the quality of the work, and the timing of the discovery are the subject of debate across the American literary landscape.

The discovery of the manuscript, however, opens an even bigger door of curiosity: what else is out there?

Jmabel / Wikimedia Commons

The Historic District of Litchfield Connecticut is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit regarding the rejection of plans for a synagogue in 2007. Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut cited the Litchfield Historic District Commission for religious discrimination over the denial of modifications to their building. 

The commission and the Borough of Litchfield asked the Supreme Court on Monday to hear the case. The move comes after the lawsuit was at first dismissed by a federal judge, then reinstated by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in September.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

A century ago, in April 1915, an event began that’s come to be known as the Armenian Genocide. One scholar believes that massacre should remind us of the long-term implications of events playing out in our own time. 

It’s thought that up to 1.5 million people may have been massacred or expelled from their homes in the Ottoman Empire during the worst atrocity of World War I. For almost a century, Turkey has denied the enormity of the event, but that may be changing. 

Thomas de Waal works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Recently, he returned to Turkey with a group American Armenians -- descendants of those who fled the genocide in the early 20th century. 

Coney Island and Bushnell Park's Carousel Artistry

Feb 13, 2015
Reginald Marsh Wooden Horses, 1936 Tempera,Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The Wadsworth Atheneum's "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008" exhibits a multitude of objects -- paintings, statues, films, music, drawings, photographs, comic strips -- all of which are inspired by Coney Island, an American landmark which has captivated the mind of the public consciousness for over a century. 

One of the highlights of the exhibit are the collection of antique carousel horses which have been preserved from the park's golden days at the the turn of the century. 

Christian Haugen / Creative Commons

Between the late 18th and early 20th centuries, millions of young, Jewish men left their homelands in search of more promising futures. They threw sacks on their backs and traveled door to door, peddling their way across the New World. 

Kārlis Dambrāns / Creative Commons

In his book Classical Cooks, Hartt professor Ira Braus explores the link between musical and culinary taste. This hour, he joins us to explain the relationship that composers had with food, and the impact this had on their musical output. Were some of your favorite symphonies and operas inspired by some fatty meats or tasty sweets? Join us to find out.

Logan Ingalls, Creative Commons

We take a break from the usual news and politics to talk about something that newsmakers and politicians just don't seem to talk about very much: arts and culture, history and humanities, our museums and gathering places. 

We hear that all of these things are important to "revitalize" cities and to "spur economic growth." If that's true, why isn't there more investment, more coordination, more big thinking about the arts? 

Jayu / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials in Elmira, New York have arrested a man they say stole a plaque of Mark Twain's likeness from the famous author's gravesite. Daniel Ruland, 32, is accused of stealing the 17-by-170inch plaque from the granite monument at the Woodlawn Cemetery.

Elmira historian Diane Janowski told the Star Gazette the plaque was made and installed by local artist Emfred Anderson in 1937. "I guess we were lucky no one touched it for so long," she told the newspaper.

The plaque was reported stolen on January 2, and it was recovered over the weekend. Police were tipped off on Friday night and recovered the item from a vehicle leaving Ruland's residence.

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Imagine Connecticut: mountains as high and as sharp as the Himalayas, volcanic activity, and ancient earthquakes shaking the ground -- much more powerful than those we feel today. To understand how this happened, we need to dial the clock back just a little bit... about 300 million years.

That's when the supercontinent of Pangea was taking shape, and an ancient landmass housing modern-day Africa and South America had slammed into Connecticut's coast. 

A major battle is coming to a head over the fate of a century-old Boston Public School building that most recently housed the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury.

The building is scheduled for demolition to make way for the first new school to be built in the city in more than a decade.

Mark Twain House

Hal Holbrook has played Mark Twain in his solo show "Mark Twain Tonight" for more than 60 years, and at almost 90 years old he's still channeling the author.

It's a show that Holbrook never expected to catch on when he first started performing off-Broadway in his mid 30s. It took more than three hours to do his makeup, he told WNPR's Colin McEnroe Showto get in character as an aging Twain. 

Holbrook was an unknown actor in 1959 when the New York Times critic gave him rave reviews, calling it "an extraordinary show," and saying "there should have been posters up all over town to herald its arrival."

As second novels go, this one should prove a doozy. More than five decades after Harper Lee published her first — and, so far, only — novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee's publisher has announced that she plans to release a new one. The book, currently titled Go Set a Watchman, will be published July 14.

Steve Slater/flickr creative commons

A man named Billy Williams became a legend during World War II, but not only for his heroic actions; Williams, stationed in Burma, became an elephant "whisperer." The book Elephant Company describes the man's exceptional ability to understand the elephants around him, and the stunning ability of the elephants to understand and communicate with him, in return.

One hundred fifty years ago on Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

To commemorate, Connecticut's Second District Congressman Joe Courtney issued a resource guide for students that details Connecticut's part in passing the amendment.

The guide also corrects a glaring mistake in Steven Spielberg's 2013 movie "Lincoln."

Puzzles: The Joy of Being Perplexed

Jan 27, 2015
Lablanco / Flickr Creative Commons

People have been puzzled since the beginning. And while that might sound like a problem, it may in fact be our preferred state of being. Since the first fires needed to be lit with tinder too damp to kindle, we've been problem solving. When one problem was solved, another was found. And when seemingly, we could no longer find enough problems to satiate our appetites, we created puzzles: problems in a box; food for our minds.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

This hour, we talk about two Connecticut dance halls, each springing from the vision of two very different men who took their respective dance halls down very different paths. One's dream soared, bringing thousands of concert-goers to over 3,000 acts over an eleven-year history. The other's dream stalled, his elaborate dance hall sitting idle for decades.

Jim The Photographer / Flickr Creative Commons

If you want to reach people, sing to them, and make them sing. Experience tells us that singing changes people's relationships to reality, maybe even getting them ready to experience pain in a protest march.

Here's a term that was new to me anyway: "Collective Effervescence". It was coined by the sociologist Emile Durkheim to describe a lot of things, including the state we might achieve if we all got together and sang a song about our political aims. You see this in times of protest, from the streets of Ferguson to the streets around Tahrir Square. When people sing, or hear someone else sing, it activates them.

President Obama begins his seventh year in office Tuesday facing a Congress where both the House and Senate are in the hands of the opposition party. He shares this in common with every other president fortunate enough to even have a seventh year in office since the 1950s.

Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Ronald Reagan in 1987, Bill Clinton in 1999 and George W. Bush in 2007 all climbed the rostrum for this late-in-the-game challenge looking out at majorities of the other party in both chambers.

King's Last March

Jan 19, 2015

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, WNPR's Where We Live presents a documentary special from American RadioWorks, "King's Last March." It explores the final year of King's life.

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a landmark speech from the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York. He called for an end to the Vietnam War.

Exactly one year later, King was assassinated in Memphis. He was 39 years old. King’s speech in New York set the tone for the last year of his life. 

It's morning meeting time. "When Dr. King was little, he learned a golden rule," sings a class of 4- and 5-year-olds with their teacher, Carolyn Barnhardt.

John Eaton Elementary School, a public school in Washington, D.C., is unusual. It sits in one of the District's wealthiest neighborhoods, but the majority of students hail from different parts of the city, making it one of the most racially and economically diverse elementary schools in the nation's capital.

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