54 episodes

Ancient Solutions. Modern Consequences. Join three business geeks and history junkies as they explore the twisty and unexpected history of business. From midwives in Colonial America to percussion manufacturers in modern Japan, from KFC to African empires, and from the Epic of Gilgamesh to modern irrigation systems in Peru — we’ll explore together how ancient solutions have modern consequences for anyone willing to see them.

Join your hosts: Dr. Frank E. Hutchison, CQM/OE; Meredith Hutchison Hartley, CQIA,; and Emily H. Geddes, MBA. Be sure to check out the website www.hiddenhistoryofbusiness.com for links, additional content, and multimedia resources.

The Hidden History of Business Podcast Hutchison Solutions

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 17 Ratings

Ancient Solutions. Modern Consequences. Join three business geeks and history junkies as they explore the twisty and unexpected history of business. From midwives in Colonial America to percussion manufacturers in modern Japan, from KFC to African empires, and from the Epic of Gilgamesh to modern irrigation systems in Peru — we’ll explore together how ancient solutions have modern consequences for anyone willing to see them.

Join your hosts: Dr. Frank E. Hutchison, CQM/OE; Meredith Hutchison Hartley, CQIA,; and Emily H. Geddes, MBA. Be sure to check out the website www.hiddenhistoryofbusiness.com for links, additional content, and multimedia resources.

    The Hidden History of Candy Canes (02×03)

    The Hidden History of Candy Canes (02×03)

    What do Protestant choirmasters, Renaissance pacifiers, mass retailers, and a 700 lb chocolate sculpture of Neil Armstrong have in common? They're all connected to the history of our favorite Christmas treat.  Join Emily, Meredith, and Frank as we explore the economics of the candy cane -- and what it teaches us about consumer behavior.


    Show Notes:

    "The Sweet and Sticky Story of Candy Canes" via National Geographic The Plate

    "The History of Candy Canes" via CBSNews

    "The Economics of Christmas"

    "It's Crunch Time for 93-Year-Old Candy Maker" - Article about Hammond's candy company (here)

    Hammond's Candy Company


    • 25 min
    The Baron of Arizona, James Reavis – Part I (02×02)

    The Baron of Arizona, James Reavis – Part I (02×02)

    Meet James Reavis, the greatest con man you've never heard of.  Called the Baron of Arizona, Reavis defrauded thousands of people -- scamming them out of more than $150 million in today’s dollars. Using his forgery skills and a love of Spanish romance novels, he literally stole most of Arizona from legal landowners.  And the most famous newspapermen, railroad giants, government officials, and Spanish aristocrats of the 1800s fell for it -- hook, line, and sinker. Join us as Emily breaks down largest and most diabolical scam in American History.


    Timeline of James Reavis

    Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
    · 2/2/1848
    · Ended the Mexican-American war
    · Gave US lots of land: Rio Grande, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada Utah, Wyoming, Colorado

    Gadsen purchase
    · Signed 12/30/1853, final approval 6/8/1854
    · James Gadsen was American ambassador to Mexico
    · Lands south of Gila River and west of Rio Grande, finish Arizona, New Mexico
    · acquired to construct transcontinental railroad along deep southern route, Southern Pacific Railroad completed in 1883
    · Reconcile outstanding border issues following Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

    Under terms of treaties above, US had to recognize and honor existing land grants made by Spanish or Mexican governments

    Early life
    · Born 5/10/1843 in Missouri
    · Father immigrated from Wales, mother of Spanish descent and proud of that heritage, read Spanish Romantic literature to him as a child
    · Enlisted in Confederate Army at 18 full of romanticized ideals of military life and realized it wasn’t quite so grand
    · Realized he could forge not only his commanding officer’s signature, but the entire handwritten furlough form, began creating passes so he could leave and visit family or scape the drudgery for a while
    · Fellow soldiers noticed, so he started selling them fake passes
    · Forged provision orders and resold goods a cut-rate deals
    · When superiors got suspicious, he took leave to “get married” and then surrendered to Union forces instead. Served in the Union Army briefly.
    · Returned to Missouri after war, odd jobs – streetcar conductor, traveling salesman, retail clerk, finally landed in real estate where discovered that those forging skills he learned on army passes were easily transferred to property titles and other real estate paperwork.

    Dr. Willing
    · Physician turned prospector who supplemented income selling patent medicine
    · Purchase rights to large Spanish land grant from Miguel Peralta for $20,000 in gold dust, prospectin equipment and saddle mules – deed scratched on scrap paper, no notary just witnesses
    · Had some legal paperwork, letters that supported claim – had William W. Gitt, expert in Spanish land titles, join them & verify
    · Reavis saw opportunity, they agreed to meet in Arizona territory, traveling separately so they could meet up when they got there, increasing their credibility and decreasing the likelihood anyone would know they were partners
    · Willing arrived in Prescott in March 1874, filed his claim at the county courthouse and was found dead the next morning.
    · When Reavis arrived in San Francisco, received two letters: from Willing announcing his safe arrival, from country sheriff announcing his death.
    · Reavis needed the papers Willing had in order to pull off his plans, but ran out of money so stayed in CA working as a teacher and journalist
    · Spent time observing the Public Land Commission, how it worked, claimed approved, bribery
    · Met Collis P. Huntington, railroad magnate, who was angry at his paper San Francisco Examiner for its attack on him and was using his influence to scare away advertisers and subscribers. Reavis met with him, told him about the Peralta grant which would allow him to grant right-of-way privileges to Huntington’s railroad line. Got him to buy large advertising contract from paper and to pay

    • 38 min
    02X01 Mythbusting Black Friday

    02X01 Mythbusting Black Friday

    Everything you know about Black Friday is wrong (except the mob-driven violence and greed. You're definitely right about that).  It has nothing to do with slave markets or retailers' profits moving into the black. It's not the biggest shopping day of the year, and it definitely doesn't have the best prices of the year, either. Frank, Meredith, and Emily separate fact from fiction while exploring the cultural and business evolution of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday shopping. Don't miss the outtakes at the end of the episode!


    (Show notes are coming, y'all. Promise. It's just been one of those weeks).

    • 32 min
    MINICAST: Distilling Whiskey – Mer Answers Your Questions

    MINICAST: Distilling Whiskey – Mer Answers Your Questions

    Shouldn't you always strain your mash before distilling it? What is "on the grain" distilling? Meredith breaks down answers to listener questions in this quick minicast.

    Our last episode (Ep 48: Whiskey, Women, and Walgreens) sparked messages from listeners telling us we'd made a mistake when we talked about putting mash into a still to make whiskey. Mash, they insisted, should always be strained so you only put liquid -- also called "the wash" -- into a still and never the solids.

    And they're partially right. To makes *some* kinds of whiskey and whisky, you absolutely SHOULD distill only the wash after lautering (separating) it from the mash solids.

    But that's not true for all. Putting the mash liquids AND solids in the still is a method called "distilling on the grain," and -- when done properly -- it produces richer flavored, higher proof bourbon and rye whiskeys.  This method has been used all of the world for millennia, and Americans have been perfecting it for the last 300 years.

    Distilling on the grain requires more skill and is certainly more risky than distilling the wash. If you don't have a still that lets you carefully control the heat, the solids will burn quickly -- and that will render the whiskey bitter, charred, and undrinkable. That's why on the grain distillers use special, steam-based stills called column, continuous, or chamber stills.

    What's more, many non-grain based spirits depend on distilling solids. Examples include mezcal, tequila's cousin made by distilling chunks of the agave plant, and many kinds of rum.

    Use the links below to learn more about on the grain distilling and the stills used to do it.

    How Column Distillation Works: Bourbon Edition

    The Chamber Still is Reborn

    How Booze is Make: The Basics of Column Distillation

    • 8 min
    Ep 48: Whiskey, Women, and Walgreens

    Ep 48: Whiskey, Women, and Walgreens

    Forget everything you know about whiskey, Prohibition, and the modern liquor industry. The real story is wild ride full of little known tales, plot twists, and unexpected connections that shaped the drink we call aqua vitae - the water of life.

    We're not kidding about the "crammed" part. We explore the connections between:

    * Mesopotamian perfume makers & Alexandrian alchemists
    * The Jewish female alchemist who invented the still
    * Baptism by fire in Gnostic traditions
    * Monastic infirmaries and the origin of gin
    * Walla Walla onions and champagne
    * The real story behind anti-Catholic stereotypes of drunken priests
    * The anti-union, anti-immigrant, and anti-black agenda of the Temperance Movement
    * Myths about alcohol consumption in the 1800s
    * Why Prohibition caused a spike in rabbinical school enrollments and church attendance
    * Why the average bootlegger was a woman -- not a mobster - who exploited cultural norms to outsell her male competitors 5 to 1!
    * How Walgreens became the largest drug store chain in the United States (SPOILER: Despite their official story, it has nothing to do with milkshakes)
    * That time the US government knowingly poisoned thousands of people
    * How the myth that women don't drink whiskey originated after World War II
    * How a Scottish woman became the Mother of Japanese Whisky
    * and much more!

    Really. This may be the most information-dense show we've ever done.

    And Mer geeks out a lot (but that was kind of a given, right?)

    Additional Links & Resources:

    Janet Patton interviewed author Fred Minnick about his book Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey. Read the article "Women and Whiskey Go Together, Always Have" for some fascinating insights into the her-story of whiskey. Here's a taste:
    "I truly believe that women are more important than men when it comes to the history of whiskey," Minnick told an August gathering of Bourbon Women at the Kentucky Governor's Mansion in Frankfort. "Sumerian women invented beer. Mesopotamian women invented distillation for perfume. An Egyptian woman created the alembic still and you can still find prototypes of this in Kentucky and Tennessee for moonshining."

    Some images are less than appealing, such as the madams operating riverboat brothels or the Temperance crusaders who hatcheted saloons and fought for Prohibition.

    But, Minnick writes, it is thanks largely to women that American whiskey survived the era.
    And then check out Fred Minnick's book:


    For more information on women and whiskey, read "Women Making Whiskey: An 800-year History" from The Atlantic by Lyndsey Gilpin. Here's an excerpt:
    Women are credited with the invention of beer around 4,000 B.C., when they fermented barley to make the beverage. Egyptian women, Peruvian women, Dutch women—they were all brewmasters with their own particular, popular recipes. Maria Hebraea, an alchemist who was first written about in the fourth century, has been credited with building an early distilling apparatus. That device, the alembic still, is still used in some parts of Europe for making brandy or whiskey, and is a model for stills used today in the foothills of Appalachia, where people continue to make moonshine.

    By the medieval era, women were distilling spirits in Western Europe, but soon they were stripped of basic rights,

    • 43 min
    Ep 47 – The Gold Standard in 7 Minutes (MINICAST)

    Ep 47 – The Gold Standard in 7 Minutes (MINICAST)

    Frank breaks down the history, controversies, and basics of the Gold Standard in just 7 minutes.

    Additional Links and Resources:


    Wikipedia is actually a great source to get the basics on the gold standard. No, REALLY. I know, I know. Your college professors promised to fail you if you even thought of using it as a source, and that has biased you against it. It's ok. No one is grading you here. We won't tell.


    The gold standard has come up in this presidential election from some Republican candidates. This New York Times article addresses those proposals through the lens of several historians.


    History.com has a brief overview of how and why FDR took the USA off the gold standard in 1933.


    Matthew O'Brien lays out the arguments against returning to the gold standard in his Atlantic article "Why the Gold Standard Is the World's Worst Economic Idea, in 2 Charts."
    The gold standard limited central banks from printing money when economies needed central banks to print money, and limited governments from running deficits when economies needed governments to run deficits. It was a devilish device for turning recessions into depressions. The answer is that some people aren't worried about depressions. Some people are worried about inflation. Even when none exists. To them, these fetters are the feature, not a bug.

    It's a simple idea. If governments can't print or spend too much money, prices should be stable. Simple, but wrong.

    Back in 2011, the state of Utah took an interesting step toward a gold standard by eliminating state taxes on the exchange of gold coins. Read more here.


    The Cato Institute issued a paper ("Is the Gold Standard Still the Gold Standard among Monetary Systems?") with a cautiously pro-gold standard slant.


    You can read the whole interview with Allan H. Metzler that Frank quotes at the end of podcast here.
    Well, all the way back to the 1970s I used to debate Ron Paul on radio about the gold standard. And of course, as you know, he’s an advocate of the gold standard – was then and is now. My final remark to him on almost every occasion was, “Look, we don’t have the gold standard. It’s not because we don’t know about the gold standard, it’s because we do.”

    • 8 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
17 Ratings

17 Ratings

CheeseyGal ,

Such an interesting take on history

I love that this podcast is created by two sisters and their dad. The new season quality is a VAST improvement (thank you!), and it makes listening to history I already found really interesting all the more pleasant. Keep up the great work, y’all!

CalenCross ,


Why aren't more people listeing to this? Short, accessible episodes about really interesting topics.

Marissa C R ,


What an awesome podcast. Super smart and well-done. No frills just fascinating topics, comfortable family dynamic and solid historical interpretations. One of my favorites!

My favorite thing is that they pick some topics I've never heard of before but that directly relate to my area of study (I'm a professional historian). Even with the more semi-obscure topics, they have plenty to say that makes it relevant to any history lover.

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