American Esoterica

American Esoterica

American history, bite-sized. These are the stories that may have slipped through the cracks - the odd detours that have shaped our history and culture in small, but sometimes significant, ways.

Episodes

July 4, 2024 17 mins

Look, getting it right is hard. Sometimes we have to settle for "close to right" or "sort of right" or even "not remotely right, but a good story nonetheless." This one features an interview with a special guest, Stuart Fisk Johnson, Esq., of the Aaron Burr Association, who has some things to say about we've treated Mr. Burr.

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In which men once again learn which is the superior sex. You may have never heard of the Smith sisters, but after this, you won't forget them. Or their cows.

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June 6, 2024 10 mins

An inquisition that everybody expects uses its greatest weapon - surprise - against its worst enemy - itself. It begins with a reign of terror but ends in a very different place. 

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May 23, 2024 2 mins

The intersection of the National Mall's biggest eyesore and its ultimate revenge on its most consequential critic.

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In the fourth of four episodes on our nation's capital, new heroes emerge to drag Washington, D.C., kicking and screaming into the 20th century via a plan from the 18th century. In other words, the D.C. you know is a lot younger than you think.

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In the third of four episodes on our nation's capital, it takes a century for the nation's capital to become...the national toilet. Follow the federal city as it grows and decays simultaneously.

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If you think Washington, D.C., is a joke, well...it came by it honestly.

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In the second of four episodes on our nation's capital, one man's ego gave us a grand plan for our capital city, but it also led to his downfall. Come for the French fuss, stay for George Washington micromanaging real estate negotiations instead of presidenting. 

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May 9, 2024 11 mins

Hey, just because something isn't true doesn't mean we should just ignore its historical importance, right? Also, contains vague discussions of prior episodes and one use of the world's mildest profanity. Your great-grandma has been warned. 

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In the first of four episodes on our nation's capital, a struggling new nation pulls itself together over dinner. Literally. Three men enter, two plans leave. Witness the most consequential dinner party in history. 

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What could possibly overshadow a tragic and eerie event that would cost the lives of 22 people in a government office building? 

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In this mini-sode of what were already short episodes, learn the origins of how Chicago learned how to turn brown into green. 

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The duel may have been the end of Alexander Hamilton's story, but it was only the beginning of Aaron Burr's descent into treasonous lunacy and at least a little karma.

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February 29, 2024 7 mins

Get ready to build your multimillion-dollar international business empire - here's a dollar and fifteen years. Can't do it? Sarah Breedlove did - this is her story.

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February 15, 2024 14 mins

A fierce love, a bold plan, and a desperate need - but will it be enough for Robert Smalls to rescue his family and escape the Confederacy?

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February 1, 2024 9 mins

They tried to keep her silent, but instead gave her something to sing about, along with the most incredible stage in the world from which to sing it.

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January 18, 2024 8 mins

If it were a work of fiction, you wouldn't believe it. This is the story of an epic feat of strength, bravery, and compassion.

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January 4, 2024 6 mins

Our First was their third - the Bill of Rights that Congress sent to the states for ratification had twelve amendments, not ten, so what happened to those extra two? 

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December 21, 2023 5 mins

The story of how one man during the Cold War accidentally wound up tracking the wrong kind of red airspace invader. And if you've heard the story before, you probably heard it wrong.

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December 14, 2023 4 mins

A beloved Christmas classic may not have always been so beloved, which is what directly led to it becoming beloved. Beloved.

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