In each episode of In The Past Lane, the history podcast, we take up topics in American history and explore them through feature pieces, interviews, book and film reviews, and more. Our guiding philosophy is that history is not just about the past - it's about our world, here and now. History explains why things are the way they are, everything from our economy, religious practices, and foreign policy, to political ideology, family structure, and rates of poverty. Our aim is to be both informative and educational, as well as entertaining and funny. We hope you'll join us for memorable journeys In The Past Lane.
Who Was Alexander Hamilton?
In this episode of ITPL, we focus on Alexander Hamilton. You may have noticed that Hamilton has become the hottest Founder in recent years – and it’s all due to the smash Broadway hit, “Hamilton: The Musical.”
The Civil War Draft Riots
This week at In The Past Lane, we take a look at a significant but often overlooked event during the Civil War, the Draft Riots of July 1863. Protests against drafting men into the Union Army broke out in many places, but the worst occurred in New York City. For four days rampaging crowds tore the city apart, destroying property and leading to the deaths of more than 100 people, including 11 African Americans who were lynched. To this day, the Draft Riots remain the largest civil uprising in US history.
Brutality & Lawlessness: America's First Great Police Scandal
This week at In The Past Lane, the American History podcast, we take a look at the first great police scandal in US history. It occurred in the mid-1890s in New York City when an investigation into the NYPD exposed widespread corruption and brutality. To tell us about this scandal, I speak with historian Daniel Czitrom author of New York Exposed: The Gilded Age Police Scandal That Launched the Progressive Era. It’s a story that makes clear that policing in the US has always been controversial.
196 The Molly Maguires
This week at In The Past Lane, the American History podcast, we take a look at a legendary labor uprising by a mysterious group known as the Molly Maguires. They were Irish and Irish American coal miners in Pennsylvania in the 1870s who used vigilante violence to fight back against the powerful and exploitative mine owners. But in the end, the mine owners used their dominance over the political and legal establishment to see to it that 20 men, most of whom were likely innocent, were executed by hanging.
Feature Story: The Molly Maguires Hanged
On Thursday June 21, 1877 – 143 years ago this week - ten men went to the gallows in Pennsylvania. They were known as Molly Maguires – members of an ultra-secret society that used violence and intimidation in their bitter struggles with powerful mine owners. Arrested for their alleged role in several murders, they were convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of very thin evidence and questionable testimony. “Black Thursday” would long be remembered by residents of the Pennsylvania coal fields as an extraordinary example of anti-labor and anti-Irish prejudice.
The story of the Molly Maguires was one very much rooted in two specific places: rural Ireland and the anthracite region of PA. The latter was the main supplier of the nation’s coal, making it a vital component in American’s unfolding industrial revolution. By the 1870s, more than 50,000 miners – more than half of them Irish or Irish American – toiled in the region’s mines. It was hard, brutal work. They worked long hours for low pay in extremely dangerous conditions. Every year cave-ins, floods, and poison gas claimed the lives of hundreds of miners. In one fire alone in 1869, 110 miners were killed. It was in the struggle of these workers to improve their pay, hours, and conditions that the Molly Maguire saga began.
Irish immigrants and Irish Americans played key roles in virtually every aspect of the conflict, from the lowliest miner to the most powerful capitalist. Foremost was Franklin B. Gowen, the wealthy Irish American president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Tough and ambitious, he ruthlessly drove his competitors out of business in an effort to dominate the state’s two principle industries, coal and railroads. The only thing he hated more than rival businessmen was organized labor, especially the main miners union, the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association (WBA). Led by an Irish-born man named John Siney, the WBA had won several strikes in the late 1860s and early 1870s that resulted in wage gains and union recognition. Even though he shared an Irish heritage with most of his miners, Franklin Gowan had little sympathy for them. In industrializing America, class interests trumped everything, including ethnicity and culture, and Gowan treated his workers like they were the enemy.
Gowan waited for the right moment to attack, and that came in 1873 when the nation plunged into a severe economic depression that lasted until 1877. The hard times hurt his bottom line, but Gowen saw a silver lining: hard times also provided an opportunity to kill the miners’ union. In January 1875, Gowan announced a steep cut in wages, a move quickly followed by the region’s others coal operators. The wage cuts triggered a massive miners’ strike throughout the region that paralyzed coal production. But Gowen and other operators had prepared for the strike by stockpiling huge coal reserves that allowed them to continue to sell coal and wait out the desperate and half-starved striking miners. The “Long Strike,” as it came to be known, was doomed. It ended after five months in June with a total defeat for the workers and the destruction of the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association (WBA).
And here’s where rural Ireland figured into the story. Embittered by their loss, a
Where Have You Gone, Robert F. Kennedy?
This week I speak with author Larry Tye about his biography, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of A Liberal Icon (2016, Random House). Tye is the author of many best-selling biographies and he’s at his best in this new look at RFK. One of the myths he’s eager to dispel is the notion that there were two, polar opposite Bobby Kennedys – the bad boy in the 1950s who worked for Sen. Joseph McCarthy and later waged war on organized labor and the saintly good guy in the mid-1960s who fought for social justice.
The Tulsa Race Massacre 0f 1921 + This Week in US History
This week at In The Past Lane, the American History podcast, we take a look at one of the most deadly incidents of anti-black violence in US history: The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. White mobs rampaged through Tulsa, Oklahoma’s African American neighborhood and burned it to the ground, killing between 100 and 300 black residents in the process. The incident was quickly covered up and driven from public memory. But in the 1990s activists and scholars began to unearth the shocking truth.
Seamless flow between now and then
Has shed much insight on current affairs,
And have felt empowered to live out my convictions and seek a more just and compassionate world. Much thanks!
Fell into this podcast and I’m so grateful for it! I appreciate the straightforward manner, streamlined facts and learning things I wasn’t taught in a classroom or in Trivial Pursuit!
Enjoy the personable manner, and he makes sure that knowing the past informs how we approach the present.