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Retropod is a show for history lovers, featuring stories about the past, rediscovered. Reporter Mike Rosenwald introduces you to history’s most colorful characters - forgotten heroes, overlooked villains, dreamers, explorers, world changers. Available every weekday morning.

Episode Date
Meet Paul Manafort’s century old forefather, who also liked fancy suits
Samuel Cutler Ward, also known as the “King of the Lobby,” is credited with shaping the craft of lobbying. And like lobbyist and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, he also had some seriously expensive tastes.
Aug 14, 2018
An aviation flop was a stamp collector’s dream and the U.S. Postal Service’s nightmare
A stamp collector’s discovery of the “Inverted Jenny” stamp created a headache for the U.S. Postal Service.
Aug 13, 2018
How Mister Rogers talked to children and families about tragedy
Mister Rogers’s approach to dealing with tragedy began with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
Aug 10, 2018
The storied past of Alderson federal women’s prison
The Alderson Federal Prison Camp has a history filled with powerful women who both pushed for the walls to be built there and served time within them.
Aug 09, 2018
Rebels, turn out your dead!
During the American Revolution, more patriots died as prisoners of war in or around New York City than died in combat.
Aug 08, 2018
The Saturday Night Massacre
The one night that changed President Nixon’s fate has stuck with us as a reminder of the limits of presidential power.
Aug 07, 2018
The dark history of the pill
A group of poor women in Puerto Rico were the first test subjects for the birth control pill. Were they guinea pigs or pioneers?
Aug 06, 2018
Meet Yvonne Burke, the first congresswoman to give birth in office
Sixty years after Congress welcomed its first woman, it welcomed its first baby.
Aug 03, 2018
The unlikely start of the Boy Scout movement
The Boy Scout movement began 110 years ago on a tiny island just off the southern coast of England.
Aug 02, 2018
How the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds began
The anti-Semitic conspiracy theories surrounding the Rothschild family date all the way back to The Battle of Waterloo.
Aug 01, 2018
The first campus shooting
A professor at The University of Virginia was fatally shot by a student in 1840.
Jul 31, 2018
How God became part of the pledge
For over 50 years, the phrase “under God” was not a part of the Pledge of Allegiance. One sermon changed that.
Jul 30, 2018
How a textile shortage led to the invention of the bikini
This episode addresses the history of the bikini in, naturally, two parts.
Jul 27, 2018
The complicated story of Linda Brown and the fight for desegregated schools
Linda Brown and her father Oliver Brown are heroes of the civil rights movement. The backstory of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education is more complicated than what you learned in school.
Jul 26, 2018
The time a senator won an Emmy for grilling witnesses at a hearing
In 1951, a televised Senate hearing caught America’s attention.
Jul 25, 2018
The rainless flood that destroyed a city
It did not rain, at least not in Ellicott City, Md. That’s what made the 1868 flood so bizarre and unexpected.
Jul 24, 2018
How a renovation made the Supreme Court a friendlier place
One simple change to how the Supreme Court bench was designed made a world of difference to how the justices communicated.
Jul 23, 2018
The Mountaintop
On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis to support sanitation workers who were protesting for their civil rights. It was there that King delivered his last speech.
Jul 20, 2018
The most romantic day
From all over the country, couples rushed to Las Vegas to get married. The demand for quickie weddings was at a fever pitch. But it wasn't Cupid's arrow causing the frenzy. It was the Vietnam War.
Jul 19, 2018
The night America burned
The deadliest wildfire in U.S. history wasn’t in California.
Jul 18, 2018
All the presidents' ghosts
Whether you believe in this stuff or not, the many accounts that have spilled out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two centuries give ghosts an undeniable place in the country’s history.
Jul 17, 2018
Don't mess with Harriet Tubman
She was just 5 feet tall. There was once a $40,000 bounty on her head. She suffered seizures throughout her life. She never gave up. She never gave in.
Jul 16, 2018
The epic bender that launched America
Washington and his fellow partiers racked up a bill of $15,000 in today’s currency celebrating the completion of the Constitution.
Jul 13, 2018
A Supreme Court justice morally opposed abortion, but voted to legalize it
The justice who helped persuade a majority of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion found the practice unthinkable — personally, but not constitutionally.
Jul 12, 2018
Eartha Kitt confronted the first lady and it nearly ruined her career
At a White House luncheon, actress Eartha Kitt would not let the president or the first lady avoid the issue of the Vietnam War. She paid a heavy price for her boldness.
Jul 11, 2018
Oregon, America’s first and only state to begin as "whites-only"
Oregon’s original constitution banned black people from the state, and the law stayed in the constitution for well over 100 years.
Jul 10, 2018
How Eleanor Roosevelt invented the modern idea of a first lady
Eleanor Roosevelt held news conferences just for female reporters. The men were not impressed.
Jul 09, 2018
The time America invaded Britain
Spoiler: It did not go well.
Jul 06, 2018
The teen who tied a Virginia election
In 1971, Stephen Burns was 18 years old and a newly minted voter. He was so jazzed to be a part of the Democratic process.
Jul 05, 2018
Thomas Jefferson's last letter
Somehow, in the depths of his personal misery towards the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson had found his powerful way with words again.
Jul 04, 2018
The U.S. government recruited black men to watch them die
The Tuskegee syphilis experiment is a horrific piece of American history.
Jul 03, 2018
The deaf men who helped NASA send humans to space
In a largely forgotten experiment, a group of students from Gallaudet University spent years helping NASA understand the mechanisms of motion sickness, and how to prevent it.
Jul 02, 2018
That time we thought an asteroid might kill us all
In 1998, the world briefly panicked over an asteroid that seemed headed for a close call with Earth. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
Jun 29, 2018
The femme fatale
For the past 100 years, Mata Hari has been revered as the quintessential glamorous spy. But the real Mata Hari was much more complicated.
Jun 28, 2018
The first congresswoman’s vote
In April 1917, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, faced an agonizing choice. Should she, or should she not, vote for the United States to enter World War I?
Jun 27, 2018
How Hollywood’s first major blockbuster revived the KKK
"The Birth of a Nation" depicted life after the Civil War in a way that glorified Klansmen. The film and its cultural impact led one man to conclude that the time was right to bring back the Klu Klux Klan.
Jun 26, 2018
The first pride parade
The very first pride parade was held in 1964 and was a bit … calmer … than what we think of today.
Jun 25, 2018
The oldest surviving banjo recording
Charles Asbury’s newly digitized songs serve as a time capsule to the music of the 19th century.
Jun 22, 2018
The worst presidents
Besides President Trump, whom do scholars scorn the most?
Jun 21, 2018
Doughnuts, the most patriotic of the junk foods
Doughnuts aren’t just delicious. They also helped America win a war.
Jun 20, 2018
The first shark attacks
For most of American history, no one was scared of sharks. One week - and one shark - changed that.
Jun 19, 2018
Between Lincoln and Washington, only one was a great poet
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two great presidents, had a lot in common: Both lost a parent as a child, both had a serious demeanor, and both dabbled with writing poetry. But only one was any good at poetry.
Jun 18, 2018
This security guard discovered the Watergate break-in, but nobody remembers him
The man who called the police on the Watergate burglars never received the credit he deserved.
Jun 15, 2018
Thomas Jefferson’s iftar dinner and the long history of Ramadan at the White House
In December 1805, a handful of prominent politicians receive invitations to join President Thomas Jefferson for a White House dinner. The occasion was the arrival of a Tunisian envoy to the U.S., Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who was observing Ramadan.
Jun 14, 2018
The biscuit tin
It’s World War II, and you’re King George VI of England. You fear a Nazi invasion of England could come at any moment. How do you protect the crown jewels? Not even Queen Elizabeth II knew how her dad did it - until recently.
Jun 13, 2018
Before Loving, another interracial couple fought to marry
The Kinneys married in Washington, D.C. in 1874. Then, they were arrested back home in Virginia for violating the state’s laws. They fought the ruling in higher and higher courts, but never won the right to stay married in their home state.
Jun 12, 2018
The Jedwabne massacre
The controversy around the murders of a Polish village's Jewish residents has centered on raw questions of complicity versus compulsion.
Jun 11, 2018
Tennis's first goddess
Suzanne Lenglen was physically ferocious. Always fashionable. A disrupter of convention.
Jun 08, 2018
The White House makeover
When the White House was built over 200 years ago, it lacked certain modern conveniences. They got added in a hodgepodge of improvements over the years.
Jun 07, 2018
The Order of the Day
On the day before D-Day, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech to the troops that totally masked how nervous he actually was.
Jun 06, 2018
The “temporary insanity” legal defense started with an affair
If you love gossip, and drama, and D.C. politics - this story is the gift that keeps on giving.
Jun 05, 2018
History’s most fascinating misquote
The Apollo 13 astronauts never said “Houston we have a problem.” Here’s why you think they did.
Jun 04, 2018
Mourning Bobby Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy's death, which came just weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., shocked the nation, especially those who looked to him to continue the national discussion over racial inequality.
Jun 01, 2018
The black power protest that shook the world
At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, one of the most iconic moments of that chaotic year unfolded on television screens around the world.
May 31, 2018
LBJ's political bombshell
By 1968, things were going badly for President Lyndon B. Johnson. Morale around the Vietnam War was sinking, and in Washington, political sharks were circling.
May 30, 2018
One broadcast helped turn Americans against the Vietnam War
Walter Cronkite's reputation, his calm but authoritative voice, carried so much weight that in 1968 one single report helped persuade the American public that we weren’t winning the war in Vietnam.
May 29, 2018
The performance that saved Johnny Cash's career
In a year of extraordinary, chaotic moments this was a hopeful one - a beat-up country music star recording an album live at a troubled maximum security prison in California.
May 28, 2018
Publishers hated ‘A Wrinkle in Time,' and Madeleine L'Engle never forgot the rejections
'A Wrinkle in Time' author Madeleine L'Engle said she received 26 rejection letters from publishers.
May 25, 2018
When Ronald Reagan visited a family targeted by the KKK
In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan wasn’t exactly known for his racial sensitivity. But when he read about a family whose house was targeted by the KKK, he and the First Lady flew out to comfort them.
May 24, 2018
The Nazi stone
A mysterious stone memorial was found in 2006 in Washington, D.C. But who placed a memorial to Nazi spies on government property? And why?
May 23, 2018
Elaine Brown, the first and only woman to lead the Black Panther Party
Elaine Brown's takeover in 1974 was a pivotal moment for a woman in the black power movement. Although women had been a dynamic force for social and racial justice, they had often been overshadowed by men.
May 22, 2018
The man who filmed JFK's assassination
For many, memories of that devastating day quickly revert to that silent, flickering sequence captured by Abraham Zapruder. It is as chilling as it is familiar: the approaching convertible, the waves of a crowd about to lose its innocence.
May 21, 2018
Princess Diana's final hours
When Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle are married this weekend, there will be one other royal on the world’s minds - Harry’s mother, the beloved Princess Diana.
May 18, 2018
The enigmatic Prince Philip - separating fact from fiction
The British royal wedding puts all eyes on the Windsor family - this time, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. But perhaps no royal is as controversial as Harry's grandfather, Prince Philip.
May 17, 2018
Wallis Simpson, the last American divorcee who married a British royal
Another British royal wedding is coming up, so over the next few days, we'll explore a few moments from the history of royal marriages in Great Britain. Today, we meet Wallis Simpson, the last American divorcee to marry a British royal.
May 16, 2018
The truth is out there
Area 51's secrets may not be alien in nature, but that doesn't make them any less mysterious.
May 15, 2018
John Brown's prophecy
Abolitionist John Brown wrote made a prophecy before he was executed.
May 14, 2018
She spent years fighting to create Mother's Day, then lost everything trying to protect it
Anna Jarvis would absolutely hate what Mother's Day has become.
May 11, 2018
The Sullivan brothers
Five brothers fought and died together on the same ship during World War II. Their final resting place was discovered earlier this year.
May 10, 2018
Lee Harvey Oswald's final hours before killing Kennedy
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy devastated the nation. But the day before the shooting was just a normal day. It was particularly calm and uneventful for the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.
May 09, 2018
To ban a "Mockingbird"
Harper Lee's classic novel has been causing controversy for as long as its been in print. Here's a look at the history of banning "To Kill a Mockingbird."
May 08, 2018
The original Alcoholics Anonymous book was auctioned for millions, but its author was never paid
The original manuscript was auctioned off for $2.4 million this weekend to an NFL owner, after almost a year of legal wrangling.
May 07, 2018
May the Fourth be with you
Mark Hamill himself shares stories from Star Wars history. You can hear the full interview with Hamill on the Cape Up podcast with Jonathan Capehart.
May 04, 2018
The battle between Old Waddy and the press
Believe it or not, the relationship between politicians and the press has been worse. A lot worse.
May 03, 2018
Were the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler friends?
Was the duke a Nazi sympathizer? Did he plot to dethrone his brother, King George VI? Did he really suggest more German bombing of Britain might end World War II?
May 02, 2018
Need a job? Ask Ulysses S. Grant
Grant had an impressive resume on the battlefield, he was known to be a patsy when it came to helping job hunters. People used to walk right into the White House and ask the president to find them a job
May 01, 2018
How the Doomsday Clock came to be
The Doomsday Clock was created not by a scientist, but by an artist.
Apr 30, 2018
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day was once just for daughters
Mike is joined by a special guest to talk about how Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day began.
Apr 27, 2018
These guys were college jocks - and then became Presidents of the United States
We dug through The Washington Post's archives and consulted the Pro Football Hall of Fame to bring you a rundown of the best presidential ballers.
Apr 26, 2018
The only person Hitler loved
Adolf Hitler's mother may be the only person he genuinely cared for.
Apr 25, 2018
Philadelphia's plumbing revolution: wood pipes
In 1812, Philadelphia was outfitted with the latest in plumbing technology - a network of wooden pipes to carry water throughout the city.
Apr 24, 2018
Chillicothe, Missouri, the town that invented sliced bread
The town of Chillicothe, Missouri, recently discovered they have a surprising claim to history: the creation of sliced bread.
Apr 23, 2018
Barbara Bush’s remarkable commencement address
In 1990, students protested the choice of the first lady as their commencement speaker, calling it anti-feminist. Her speech silenced the critics.
Apr 20, 2018
The day anti-Vietnam War protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon
In October 1967, antiwar protesters announced that they would march en masse to the front steps of the Pentagon. and levitate it. And then they would try to levitate it.
Apr 19, 2018
The history of epic North Korean insults
North Korea has long been a superpower when it comes verbal attacks.
Apr 18, 2018
Hate the IRS? Blame Abraham Lincoln.
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln was in a financial bind. Also, he was in a war. To raise money, he pushed for and won passage of an income tax and, a year or so later, established the Internal Revenue Bureau to collect what was owed.
Apr 17, 2018
The mother who made George Washington miserable
George and his mother had an unusual relationship for the 1700s, more like what you might see in a sitcom from the 1970s. She was indispensable to him, but intolerable.
Apr 16, 2018
Why Thurgood Marshall asked an ex-Klan member to help him make Supreme Court history
Thurgood Marshall, the first African American member of the Supreme Court, took the constitutional oath of office from Hugo Black, a white associate justice who had once been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Apr 13, 2018
A letter from home
A German woman discovered that her childhood home was stolen from a Jewish family who fled Nazi Germany. Last year, she tracked down the address of one of the children, and wrote him a letter.
Apr 12, 2018
Was Mary Todd Lincoln a leaker?
President Abraham Lincoln had to worry about the first lady being a leaker, and it was quite a scandal.
Apr 11, 2018
Winifred Stanley, a forgotten equal pay pioneer
The woman who first introduced equal pay legislation in Congress had to fight to be taken seriously -- and often failed.
Apr 10, 2018
The invention of sarin
Weevils, a voracious beetle found in fields and orchards, were the original target of sarin gas.
Apr 09, 2018
The spy plane
Over the past few months, historians and national security analysts have been re-examining one particular forgotten moment in the history of U.S. and North Korea conflict.
Apr 06, 2018
The toughest job in politics
The most thankless job might be that of the White House press secretary. Just ask Ron Ziegler.
Apr 05, 2018
The day Martin Luther King Jr. died
Fifty years ago today, the civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis. Riots broke out across the country, but in Indianapolis, there was peace.
Apr 04, 2018
The Mountaintop
On April 3, 1968, 50 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis to support sanitation workers who were protesting for their civil rights. It was there that King delivered his last speech.
Apr 03, 2018
The books the presidents read
Throughout history, the reading of books has been a sort of armchair way measuring someone's intelligence. Here are stories of three former presidents at opposite ends of the reading spectrum. You can decide for yourself.
Apr 02, 2018
Egg Roll
One day a year, the White House grounds are truly turned over to the people - well, the kids. That day is the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, and it began as the solution to a problem that Victorian children created.
Mar 30, 2018
The girl who struck out Babe Ruth
One of baseball's most enduring mysteries surrounds a 17-year-old girl name Jackie Mitchell.
Mar 29, 2018
The first daughters
Ivanka Trump might be the only first daughter in American history to score a West Wing office, but she’s not the first presidential daughter to wield power in the White House.
Mar 28, 2018
Meet the Press
At the beginning of the television age, “Meet the Press” dented the dominance of newspapers and thrilled news junkies with the you-were-there power of live broadcasting.
Mar 27, 2018
The man who won World War II
Andrew Higgins wasn't in the Army. He wasn't a paratrooper. He was a wild and wily genius, a tough, crafty, businessman. And he built the built the boats that brought troops ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Mar 26, 2018
The children's crusade
The movement organized by survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., is not the first time that kids have taken a stand. History shows that kids, with their innocence, honesty and moral urgency, can shame adults into discovering their conscience.
Mar 23, 2018
The forbidden question
If the order for a nuclear attack is issued, the soldiers operating the launch machine have no choice but to fire. Or do they?
Mar 22, 2018
The crooked picture
Jesse James, the most famous outlaw in history, was eventually foiled by a picture hanging crooked on a wall.
Mar 21, 2018
Lawn wars
Lawns have always been more than just grass.
Mar 20, 2018
Dr. Spock
Dr. Spock - not the guy from Star Trek - was at one time America's most beloved pediatrician. A whole generation of children was raised on his medical advice. But not even his popularity could save him from being indicted by the federal government.
Mar 19, 2018
Then they came for me
Martin Niemoller's simple and haunting words are often quoted in moments of intolerance. The story behind them is much more complicated.
Mar 16, 2018
The godfather of bracketology
Some 50 million people are projected to fill out a March Madness bracket this year. As you finish filling out yours, you might want to tip your pencil and say thanks to the late and loud Staten Island bar owner Jody Haggerty.
Mar 15, 2018
The Limping Lady
President Trump made history Tuesday when he nominated a woman to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But while a woman leading the CIA was once unthinkable, female spies have made enormous, overlooked contributions in espionage.
Mar 14, 2018
The first female marine
During World War I, the Marines Corps back home needed help while the men were fighting overseas. Opha May Johnson was the first in line.
Mar 13, 2018
The trials and tribulations of being a cat
Cats have endured some really mean stuff throughout history. Dogs should be thankful.
Mar 12, 2018
Fall back, spring forward
Why, oh, why is daylight savings a thing? It's because for roughly two decades after World War II, no one had any clue what time it was.
Mar 09, 2018
The glass ceiling
In 1978, Marilyn Loden coined a phrase that paints very image that women have been fighting for decades.
Mar 08, 2018
How are you, Grandmama?
A dog and a cadaver deserve credit for their contributions to the invention of the telephone.
Mar 07, 2018
The night America burned
The deadliest wildfire in U.S. history wasn’t in California.
Mar 06, 2018
And the winner is...
Oscars night is probably the one moment around the world when people become really interested in envelopes.
Mar 05, 2018
Special delivery!
There’s one thing that you can’t have delivered anymore that was totally normal to send by mail in the early 1900s.
Mar 02, 2018
The woman behind Lisa Ben
Edythe Eyde, also known by her pen name Lisa Ben, was a visionary who fought to make lesbians visible in pop culture decades before most others had the guts to do the same.
Mar 01, 2018
The houses built by slaves
Buildings that stand as symbols of American democracy - the White House, Mount Vernon and Monticello, to name a few - were erected with the labor of those who were not free.
Feb 28, 2018
How the NRA began
When the NRA was founded in 1871, its primary concern was not gun rights or the Second Amendment.
Feb 27, 2018
The rise of supermarkets
If you’re like most Americans, you probably visit a grocery store once or twice a week. But you probably don’t know that one single grocery item is responsible for the rise of supermarkets as we know them.
Feb 26, 2018
The Green Book
In the 1930s, travelling the nation's highways while black was fraught with peril. One postal worker, Victor Green, wrote a guide book for African Americans after he faced discrimination on a road trip.
Feb 23, 2018
The ice queen
Sonja Henie won three Olympic gold medals and 10 world championships, and turned her star power into as career as one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars. Meet figure skating's first megastar.
Feb 22, 2018
Mrs. Graham
Katherine Graham's leadership in the decision to release the Pentagon Papers was the subject of the Stephen Spielberg film "The Post." But it was her leadership during the pressman's strike in 1975 that is perhaps the most gripping moment of her life.
Feb 21, 2018
The electric rivalry
To understand the gruesome history of the death penalty, it is essential to comprehend how badly Thomas Edison wanted to zap George Westinghouse.
Feb 20, 2018
All the president's ghosts
Whether you believe in this stuff or not, the many accounts that have spilled out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two centuries give ghosts an undeniable place in the country’s history.
Feb 19, 2018
Don't mess with Harriet Tubman
She was just 5 feet tall. There was once a $40,000 bounty on her head. She suffered seizures throughout her life. She never gave up. She never gave in.
Feb 16, 2018
When Olympic silver beats gold
Ski jumping involves flying more than 800 feet in the air and then landing on two feet, without dying. Where on earth did this sport come from?
Feb 15, 2018
The most romantic day
From all over the country, couples rushed to Las Vegas to get married. The demand for quickie weddings was at a fever pitch. But it wasn't Cupid's arrow causing the frenzy. It was the Vietnam War.
Feb 14, 2018
The best birthday card ever
In 1926, the United States received a birthday card signed by 5.5 million Polish people.
Feb 13, 2018
What hath God wrought?
The history of social media began in 1844, when Samuel F.B. Morse sent a message from Washington to Baltimore. It said, "What hath God wrought?"
Feb 12, 2018
Introducing 'Retropod'
Preview The Washington Post's newest daily podcast, a show about the past, rediscovered. Subscribe now to get the first episode when it launches February 12.
Feb 07, 2018