Ballsy History

Ballsy History

Ballsy History is a weekly-ish podcast about big personalities and little-known stories. Join us for a tour of the outrageous acts, incredible stories, and outsized characters that shape history. Your hosts are a four female family with a penchant for uncovering the quirky side of the past (and, sometimes, not so distant past). Ballsy History was born during stay-at-home orders during the COVID pandemic.

Episodes

June 3, 2021 14 min
The Northwest plains have weather that is not for the faint of heart. Even this past year a prolonged arctic outbreak struck the area and the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a snow train coming down from Canada. The Children’s Blizzard is also known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard or the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard. In the 1940s, a group of seniors organized the Greater Nebraska Blizzard Club to collect and organize survivors’ stories to try ...
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Learn about what different cultures do when their children’s teeth fall out; and the origins of the tooth fairy, a fairly modern character—certainly younger than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. After our episode on Vikings, we were intrigued by the fact that they made necklaces out of their childrens’ lost teeth and wore them for protection when they traveled—and pillaged. And we wondered, what was going on in other parts of the w...
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By the middle ages, brewing and selling ale provided women a way to work and achieve "good profits, social power, and some measure of independence from men"—especially compared to other trades, which did not. Yet after the Black Plague, societal changes led to men dominating in the field of brewing—which still continues today. But some think women were forced out of brewing because men began to accuse female brewers of bein...
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The 6888th was a self-contained unit. The Army wasn’t yet integrated for men, let alone women—and segregated by both race and gender, the members of the Six Triple Eight not only made history, they quickly achieved what seemed insurmountable, and in doing so, improved the morale of U.S. troops. Out of the 855 members of the battalion, three perished overseas and were laid to rest in France. The Six Triple Eight holds the distinct...
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“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was nationally broadcast from 1968 to 1976, and again from 1979 to 2001; although the show existed in different iterations prior. During the thirty minute program children were encouraged to be their true selves, use their imaginations, and show kindness to their neighbors. However, the show broke plenty of ground in childrens’ television programming. Within the first week the show was alluding to the...
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If you Google “worst jobs” you’re going to see things like crime scene clean up and sewer diver, but compared to medieval bell ringer? At least sewer divers can be hosed down. Bell ringers had to be hosed off – like, every surface. Enjoy this episode, "The Brescia Church Explosion of 1769." In honor of April Fool's Day, we are taking part in "Operation Switcheroo 2021." Learn more about *"Doomsday: History&#...
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Vampires lurk throughout popular culture, appearing on television in “True Blood” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as well as Twilight books, and even the character “The Count” on Sesame Street. But long before Buffy was protecting humankind, a public hysteria gripped several New England states in the late 19th century. Roughly two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, locals were on high alert as they believed vampires were in...
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March 15, 2021 11 min
Tea came to Ireland in the early 1800s and was immediately classified as a luxury product, having arrived from far away India on a clipper ship. Right from the beginning, upper class, wealthy people began holding tea parties, and once it became—pardon the pun—steeped into the culture, the other classes did as well. Some people say that tea is Ireland’s other “national drink” (after stout) and with the average person downing 1,300 c...
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March 12, 2021 12 min
Perhaps no other Montmartre venue has inspired as much interest as the Moulin Rouge, the most luxurious and exuberant nightclub in Paris when it opened, featuring: a dance hall, cabaret, risque sideshows, clowns, fortune-tellers,and cancan dancers. The garden, marked by an oversized plaster elephant turned-opium-den, trained monkeys, donkey rides, and, of course, the moulin rouge, or “red windmill.” The Moulin Rouge created space ...
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Most European cities have channeled their waters into paved canals, wiping out much of the history along the way—but not London, which is one of the only places where you can safely do something like mudlarking. The variety of artifacts found can be significant finds, but they also, often, represent items museums don’t often have much of, the cheaply-made, everyday objects such as children’s toys like a medieval toy horse and knig...
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February 23, 2021 13 min
Josephine Baker’s career was centered in Europe because of the racism she faced in the US. She became the most successful entertainer in her beloved France, transforming over time from an exotic dancer into a film star and opera singer. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics; and, at the height of her career, it is believed she was the wealthiest black woman alive....
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February 15, 2021 13 min
If you think that a group of warriors living in the late 8th to the late 11th centuries would stink to high heaven because of all the rowing and decapitating, you'd be wrong. Vikings were actually very hygienic—bathing weekly and changing their clothes frequently. Culturally, they faced pressure to look put together that manifested through frequent wardrobe changes. Still, one of their habits might just make your teeth hurt.
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February 10, 2021 11 min
If the list of female scientists you can think of starts and ends with Marie Curie, it’s not just you. It’s more likely “The Matilda Effect.” Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Matilda recognizes that, on a personal level, undermining a person’s achievements affects their future performance. But on a societal level, discounting and underestimating the contributions of women prevents them from succeeding. And what about all those los...
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February 1, 2021 11 min
Today on our show we’ll learn about Mabel Stark, one of the first female animal trainers. She was active for over sixty years and survived eighteen maulings during her career. In fact, it is notable that she lived through so many attacks considering the depth of her wounds—and the fact that penicillin was not commonly available until the late 1930s. During the 1920's she moved from circus to circus and husband to husband, avoid...
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January 25, 2021 10 min
Today on our show we’ll learn about Cesare Lombroso’s biological theories of crime and the ways "the father of criminology" was the first person to make crime and criminals a specific area of study. Now, more than one hundred years after his death, there has been an upswing in studying the biological causes of criminal behavior once again. People will never tire of trying to determine the roots of a criminal’s actions.
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Charlotta was a staunch advocate for civil liberties, women's rights, and immigration. Because of her civil rights work, her life was threatened numerous times. Additionally, the FBI placed her under surveillance, leading to files several binders thick—and they labelled her a communist. She had a long career as editor and publisher of the West Coast’s oldest Black newspaper, The California Eagle, and used her platform to push ...
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The first recorded incident of insects used in a criminal investigation was in 13th-century China when a farmer was found murdered and all the suspects were told to place their sickles on the ground. One had blood on it that was invisible to the naked eye, but that was enough—it attracted blow flies which resulted in confession by the murderer. Forensic entomology is the study of insects in criminal investigations and it helps prov...
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January 11, 2021 11 min
Spiritualism began during the 1840s in Hydesville, NY and adherents believe spirits of the dead can and do want to communicate with the living. By 1897, Spiritualism had more than 8 million followers, including: Queen Victoria, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Victorian seances were presided over by mediums who could dictate the spirits’ message by means of rapping or knocking. Talking Boards, also known as witch, s...
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January 4, 2021 9 min
In 2014, builders converting the Redland House Hotel dismantled a bed during renovations and were ready to leave it out for trash pick up when it was suggested maybe the wooden four poster ought to go up for auction. So they left it in the car park ready for collection by the auctioneers—and everyone was completely oblivious about its true value. What nobody predicted at the time was this was actually the earliest royal bed in th...
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December 29, 2020 9 min
If you’ve ever sat in a darkened movie theater chances are you’ve also balanced a bag of popcorn on your lap while indulging in fistfulls of the salty snack people love so much. Ornate movie palaces with crystal chandeliers, marble-lined hallways, billiards rooms, and even drop-off daycare centers drew wealthier customers and were initially intolerant of messy and disruptive snacks. In fact, this—the original clandestine movie sna...
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