what you didn't know you didn't know

Newest Episode

In this week’s episode let’s talk about the rise and fall of Anita Bryant, a former country singer, evangelical Christian, and the orange juice industry’s most notable homophobic bigot.


Episode 46: Anita Bryant Sucks Oranges

In this week’s episode let’s talk about the rise and fall of Anita Bryant, a former country singer, evangelical Christian, and the orange juice industry’s most notable homophobic bigot.


Episode 45: The Elephant in the Room

On September 13th, 1916, an elephant was sentenced to a hanging death by an angry mob and an opportunistic circus owner. What can the death of Mary the elephant tell us about the expectations we hold for others?


Episode 44: A House Reconstructed

The Civil War was one of the most destructive wars in American history- more soldiers died in the Civil War than the sum total of all previous American war casualties. Let's talk about the human cost of war.


Episode 43: Coney Island Days

There are few things more ubiquitously American than the hot dog. This classic fast food has far more history than it seems- let's talk about the hot dog as a cultural vessel for the shared experiences of Greek and Macedonian immigrants in the 1900s, and as a target for American anxieties about our food.


Episode 42: The Landlord’s Game

In this week’s episode, learn about Georgism, LVTs, the Law of Rent, the spread of ideas, and how the idea for the world’s most popular (and most hated) board game was stolen from a Midwestern Quaker woman.


Episode 41: The Velvet Swing

Learn about the story of Evelyn Nesbit, a teenage model and actress who was repeatedly brutalized and controlled by the rich and powerful monsters of 1900s New York.


Episode 40: Acres of Skin

Take a look inside the brutal human experimentation that went on for 23 years behind the walls of a prison in one of America’s largest cities. With cruelty that has been compared to the Holocaust, it’s about time we talk about Holmesburg.


Episode 39: A Land of Milk and Honey

This week take a look at two perfectly similar versions of paradise separated by half a millennium.


Episode 38: Attica

It’s the Fourth of July, and today we’re taking a look at the most infamous prison riot in America history, as well as the systems that lead to its eruption. Only through an examination of our past can we build a better future for all.


Episode 37: Charlie on the MTA

New York City has one of the most extensive subway systems in the world, and at times, it seems, the most irritating. How did the MTA come to be, and how did it get to where it is now?


Episode 36: The Old Maid

June is Pride Month, so this week, let's take a look at the social concept of "the spinster" and "the old maid," and examine how they relate to same-sex relationships in early America.


Episode 35: Snake Oil

The year is 1893, and you’re living in a small settlement in the New Mexico territory . Health care in your town is not the best. There seems to be no solution in sight outside of an early grave. But then something changes...a wagon comes to town, and with it, a traveling troupe of entertainers singing the virtues of oils, liniments, and balms that they say can cure what ails. Do you believe them? And what exactly is in the miracle elixirs that they call “patent medicine?”


Episode 34: 10,000 Years

If you had to convey vitally important information to our descendants thousands of years from now, how would you do it? Would you carve your message into stone or cast it in metal? Would you create a series of signs and symbols that represented the meaning of your information? What if understanding this message meant the difference between life and death?


Episode 33: Cosmic Correspondence

Ever heard that urban legend about how NASA spent huge sums of money to develop a pen that wrote in space, while to Soviet Union used pencils? Yeah, turns out that’s a myth. In the first episode of Season 3 find out a little bit about the history of writing in space.


Episode 32: The Secret Lives of Buildings

Is the built world inherently political? Do we shape our buildings or do our buildings shape us? Get some food for thought in the experimental final episode of season 2.


Episode 31: Entrance of the Gladiators

The circus in its modern form has been an institution in Western culture for over a quarter of a millennium, and traces its historic influences back even further. This week, learn about one of the things that made the circus what it was: its music.


Episode 30: Ozymandias

The Mediterranean during the Bronze Age was a bastion of civilization; massive cities with decadent palaces dotted the coastal territories, while art, literacy, and trade flourished, creating an unparalleled standard of living. In the span of 50 years, almost all of it would be gone. What was it that brought these spectacular civilizations to their knees?


Episode 29: The Cremation of Sam McGee

From 1896 to 1899 over 100,000 people poured into the forests of the Canadian Yukon in search of gold. Though few found it, the Klondike Gold Rush has maintained a place in the American collective imagination. Find out about the rush that captivated a country, and inspired artists for generations to come.


Episode 28: The Speech

In the mid 1800s, as American pioneers pushed the native population further and further westward, the Chief of the Duwamish Tribe, a man named Seattle, gave a beautiful and sentimental plea for environmentalism and native rights. There’s only one problem…it may have never happened. In this week’s episode learn about the founding of a city, and a speech that took on a life of its own.


Episode 27: The Big Cheese

Though it only existed in its most well known form in the 1980s, Government Cheese has left a lasting impact on the collective American mind. In this week’s episode learn how this farm subsidy eventually became a highly political issue, and a sign of American urban poverty.


Episode 26: The Monuments Men

Why play someone for the short con when you can play them for the long one? At the turn of the last century, two con artists pulled off a series of incredibly audacious scams that were so incredible that they forever changed what it meant to be a con man. Buckle up, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

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Episode 25: Ignorance is Bliss

It was the worst environmental disaster you’ve never heard of. Over the course of 4 years, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil contaminated with a deadly chemical were sprayed on the streets of a small Missouri town, and nobody was the wiser.

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Episode 24: Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn

The 1970s was a decade of many, many things. One of them was music, and in 1979 a group of "hip hoppers" from Englewood, New Jersey released a single that turned the world on its head, setting this new genre on its way to eventually become the most popular in the world.


Episode 23: Vampires of New England

Here be monsters! Throughout the 1800s, small farming communities fell victim to what they believed to be frequent attacks from undead relatives come to drain their blood. What they mistook for a vampire problem was really a tuberculosis problem, and in their attempts to stop the spread of the vampire scourge, they would result to drastic and gruesome measures. Tune into this week’s episode to learn about one of the more dramatic results of medical ignorance.


Episode 22: Vignettes, Part I

This week's episode is a combination of three short stories that couldn't quite make it into a full episode. Tune in to learn about the government of the strongest of the Native American nations, the roving horseback librarians of 1930s Kentucky, and time when all American nuclear launch codes were 00000000.


Episode 21: Bob the Builder, Part II

Part 2 of 3 In the beginning, Bob Moses was an uncompromising idealist determined to restructure and reform government to greater benefit mankind. As he grew older, that idealism was slowly chipped away by his experiences with the governments of New York City and New York State. In the search for the power to make his dreams come true, Robert Moses the idealist was replaced by Robert Moses the politician.


Episode 20: Bob the Builder, Part I

Part 1 of 3 To some, he was a genius, to others, he condemned the American city to a slow and arduous death. He was Robert Moses, the “master builder,“ and with his iron will, economic resources, and unchallenged political power, he shaped New York in accordance with his vision. The age of the car had arrived.


Episode 19: The Battle for Winnipeg

On February 19th, 1942, the Canadian city of Winnipeg became one of the scores of places to fall to Nazi Blitzkrieg, and after it was overrun and occupied by hordes of Nazi soldiers, it became the first of the Greater Reich’s holdings in North America. Wait, what?


Episode 18: John Wayne vs. Communism

Remember that time a Soviet dictator tried to assassinate an American movie star? Yeah neither do we, let's take a look inside the insidious world of KGB assassins, secret plots, and presumably, lots and lots of cowboy hats.


Episode 17: Bloody Harlan

Part 3 of a 3 part series on labor relations in industrial America. As the Coal Wars came to a close in the 1930s, there was one conflict that lasted for almost a decade straight. Welcome…to Bloody Harlan County.


Episode 16: Night On Blair Mountain

Part 2 of a 3 part series on labor relations in industrial America. In late August, 1921, West Virginia was rocked by the largest armed uprising since the Civil War. More than one million rounds were fired, and over one hundred people died. So…what happened?


Episode 15: Sixteen Tons

Part 1 of a 3 part series on labor relations in industrial America. Bisbee, Arizona is a quintessential small town, and it often ranked among one of the coolest small towns in America, yet behind it’s vibrant historic downtown and its popular attractions, Bisbee hides a troubled past…


Episode 14: The Blue Bench

100 years ago, the most lethal war in the history of mankind had the side effect of creating the discipline of modern plastic surgery, as well as advancing the art of prosthetic production. In this week's episode, learn about Anna Coleman Ladd, Harold Gillies, the Great War, and of course, the blue bench.


Episode 13: Project Cybersyn

On September 11th, 1973, a military coup in Chile overthrew the world's first democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende. As the new military dictatorship was dismantling Chilean democracy, they came across a small, futuristic room that projected absolute power. Learn about the history and context for Salvador Allende's Project Cybersyn in this week's episode.


Episode 12: Joy To The World

For many Americans, joking is a way of life, and practical jokes are the bread and butter. Tune in this week to hear about the chronology of joking from ancient Rome to now, and learn about the people that made practical joking what it is today.


Episode 11: Yes! We Have No Bananas

Though it may seem unlikely, the simple banana has helped shape the modern world, as well as the modern diet. Tune into this week's episode of Hidden History to learn how a piece of fruit has brought nations to their knees. 


Episode 10: In John We Trust

What happens when people who live in isolation suddenly come into contact with the most powerful military force in the world? More importantly, what happens to the original community's society and economy once those new visitors leave for good? Find out in Hidden History's 10th episode: In John We Trust.


Episode 9: Don't Call Me Shirley

For over fifty years color photographs were developed in accordance with the strict guidelines laid out in Kodak's Shirley Card system. This episode explores the technology behind cameras and photo development, as well as the history of the Shirley Card, the problems it created, and how they were eventually solved.


Episode 8: SCRAM!

Nuclear power has existed, in one form or another, for almost 80 years. In the intervening decades, nuclear science has progressed spectacularly, and sometimes terrifyingly. How did we get from a reactors that output half a watt to reactors that can power entire cities? And what happens when those huge reactors go super critical?

Episode 7: Hardware Wars

Before the .mp3, 8-track, and LP record, people listened to their favorite music on etched wax cylinders. What happened to them, and why don't we use them today? Find out on Hidden History's 7th Episode about the life and death of early music technology.


Episode 6: Dem Bones

From chemotherapy to advanced medical X-rays, radiation has changed the way we live our lives, but it hasn't always been for the better. In this episode of Hidden History, learn about the darker side of early radioactive technology, from the the tragically infamous Radium Girls to the shoe-fitting fluoroscope. 




Episode 5: Time in a Bottle

For over 70 years, the price of a bottle of Coca-Cola was pinned at 5 cents. The nickel coke lasted through a depression, two world wars, massive inflation, the introduction of Pepsi, and much more. Episode 5 goes into one of the most notable examples of psychological branding association in the history of the United States.




Episode 4: The Color Purple

Since its discovery thousands of years ago, up until 1856, the color purple was associated with royalty, power, and wealth. A completely accidental discovery changed all that. Learn about the color of everyday life on this week's episode of Hidden History.

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Episode 3: The Sweetest Place on Earth

Tune in this week to hear about the hidden history behind H.B. Reese and one of America's favorite candies, the Reese's Cup, as well as the local legend Milton Hershey, the pragmatic candy wizard who dreamed of building the sweetest place on earth.


Episode 2: Music From Mathematics

Electronic is among one of the most popular genres of modern music- it's existed in various incarnations since the first electronically synthesized sounds almost 100 years ago. How did it get from a series of primitive beeps and buzzes on a computer the size of a room to the commercially successful genre it is today? Find out on Hidden History's second episode. 




Episode 1: Brother John Birch

Founded in the late 1950s, the radical fringe political group, the John Birch Society, quickly grew to dominate right-wing discourse (and embody midcentury cartoonish McCarthyism) during the height of the Cold War, but... what exactly was it, and what happened to it?