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26 November
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Thanksgiving

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Originally Lincoln set the date of thanksgiving when he issued the Thanksgiving proclamation that declared it would be the last Thursday of November. In 1939 Franklin D Roosevelt announced that November 23 would be the new day for Thanksgiving. This was the next to last Thursday not the last as Lincoln had set up so many years ago. This did not go over well, but for two years FDR did it. Then finally on November 26, 1941, he admitted his mistake and signed a bill into law officially making the fourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

Listen to our history podcast on thanksgiving.

Lots More on Thanksgiving:

I don’t know why exactly but I have done lots of post on or around Thanksgiving for the past eight years  Here are some of the highlights:

Sources:

Read More:

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23 August
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How to Subscribe to History Podcast

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I created a youtube video describing step-by-step how to subscribe to History Podcast using iTunes.  Now, I understand that not everyone uses iTunes and I intend to address other ways of subscribing/listening to the podcast in future posts, but since most people 90% listen via iTunes we are going to cover this way first.  Please let me know how you listen to the podcast in the comments below.

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05 July
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History Podcast 120 – Texas City Disaster

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History of the Texas City Disaster

On April 16, 1947 at around 8am people noticed a red glow from the ship Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City in Texas City, Texas.  The Grandcamp was originally called the SS Benjamin R. Curtis, named for the American attorney and US Supreme Court Justice.  It went into service in 1942 and served in World War II.  After the war the ship was decommissioned.  In a cold war, gesture the ship was given to the French Line, a shipping company established during 1861 as an attempt to revive the French merchant marine.

The ship’s cargo was Ammonium nitrate, a chemical frequently used as fertilizer.  I spread some on my lawn this weekend actually.  It is also used as an ingredient in explosives. Ammonium nitrate is a very common cargo.

About 600 feet away the High Flyer was was docked.  Its cargo also consisted of ammonium nitrate.  961 tons of it.  Not to mention 1,800 tons of sulfur.  To make all this worse, the two ships were adjacent to a warehouse which stored more fertilizer.  All of this was on its way to farmers in Europe.

At 8am the red glow from the cargo hold on the Grandcamp was noticed and they began to try to put out the fire.  All attempts failed.

Just before 9am the captain ordered the hold steamed.  A common method used to try to put out the fire while not damaging the cargo.  The hold began to expand because of the pressure from the steam.  Meanwhile, crowds began to gather at what they thought was a safe distance.  They noted to each other that the water around the ship was boiling.  And when water splashed up against the hull it immediately turned to steam and evaporated.

At 9:12 am the cargo detonated.  Sending a massive 15 foot wave out into the ocean from the port.  The blast leveled almost 100 buildings on the shore.  The explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant on shore and it also ignited refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront.  It was a gigantic explosion, which hurled the Grandcamps anchor 1.6 miles into the city.  Creating a 10 foot deep crater.  The blast shored off the wings of a sightseeing plane flying overhead and launched bales of flaming twine from the Grandcamps deck into the air.

10 miles from the explosion people in Galveston, Texas were thrown to their knees from the blast and in Houston, Texas, 40 miles from the explosion windows were shattered.  The blast was felt as far as Louisiana, 100 miles from the blast.  The grandcamp ship did not fair well either.  Most of its 6,350 tons of steel were blown into the air with its cargo.  Some at supersonic speeds.  All of the crew that were aboard the Grandcamp died and many of those around the ship were either blown instantly to bits or burned alive.  The official death toll was 567, which is believed to be underestimated. All but one of the Texas City volunteer firefighters, who were fighting the fire survived the explosion.

The High Flyer’s cargo was set afire from the blast on the Grandcamp and after 15 hours of fighting that fire and trying to move the ship away unsuccessfully, the High Flyer also exploded.  That explosion killed two more and completely demolished the SS Wilson B. Keene docked nearby.  One of the High Flyer’s propellers was blown a mile inland.  It is now part of a memorial park, and sits near the anchor of the Grandcamp. The propeller is cracked in several places, and one of the blades has a large piece missing from it, a mute testament to the destruction that took place that day.

This disaster is widely considered to be the worst industrial accident in US history.  The estimated property damage in 1947 dollars was 100 million, which in current dollars would equate to around 1.04 billion.  It is believed that there were at least 468 deaths and 5,000 injured.  Around 2,000 people were left homeless.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed in the aftermath of the disaster under the recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).  On April 13, 1950, the district court found the United States responsible for a litany of negligent acts of omission and commission by 168 named agencies and their representatives in the manufacture, packaging, and labeling of ammonium nitrate, further compounded by errors in transport, storage, loading, fire prevention, and fire suppression, all of which led to the explosions.

On June 10, 1952, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision, finding that the United States maintained the right to exercise its own “discretion” in vital national matters.  On June 8, 1953, the US Supreme Court upheld that decision.

Books to learn more:

City on Fire : The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle

The Texas City Disaster, 1947

Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_Disaster

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11 May
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Producing a Podcast

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Materials for the podcast

For a long time I have wanted to write a post about what I do to produce a podcast.  For episode 119 The Thirty Years War I first did a lot of research.  I read about the war on wikipedia, then I searched the Internet for other sources.  I found Hank’s History Hour episode on the religious wars, and I found Nathan Barber’s website.  I listened to what Mr. Barber had on his website and I read the materials he had there.  Then I started writing long hand, 10 pages.  I also stopped at my local library to see what they had as far as books.  I borrowed The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy and Eyewitness Accounts of the Thirty Years War 1618-48.  I took a couple of tid-bits from the latter book, but the first book is huge and I just thumbed through it.

Then it was time to start recording.  Easier said then done though.  There are a few problems to recording.  First finding the time to have a quiet house.  For those who don’t know I have a little girl that is currently 2 and a half.  If you know two and a half year-olds, then you know they are not a quiet group.  Secondly, my microphone is packed up and at my in-laws home, since we have been trying to move for a year now, with no luck.  The housing market in Southern California is less than ideal.  So I had to record on the built in microphone on my laptop.

I went back and started using Audacity to record my podcast with.  It is free and easy to use.  After recording I use another program to normalize the audio so it is not too quiet or too loud anywhere.  That software is called levelator.  Then I import back into Audacity for finishing touches, like adding the intro music.  After which I usually add the tags to the podcast using iTunes, but I think I forgot to do that this last time, so you may notice that.

Then it is already to go and I upload to Libsyn.  After they have it, it is time to update my rss feed for the podcast and post the accompanying blog article.  Thats it.  Well, thats it for the audio portion of the podcast.  For the Thirty Years War I also did a video, a PDF history guide and a timeline.  I haven’t always done all these “extras”.  I probably won’t continue to do them either.  I didn’t get any feedback on any of the extras and I received very little feedback on the actual audio podcast.

There it is.  If there are any questions just post them in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  Thanks!

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14 April
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Podcast Reviews

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While you guys are still fighting over what podcast topic to cover next, 30 years war and Japan’s aspirations leading to WWII are still tied, you might want to take a look at some of these podcasts. I’ve already reviewed a few to help you choose. Also, I’m going to start working on something for the 30 years war this weekend. But you can still vote on the poll below:

Choose the next podcast episode

  • The 30 Years War (24%, 4 Votes)
  • Japanese aspirations to Empire, leading up to WWII (18%, 3 Votes)
  • Alexander the Great (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Spanish New World Empire (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Josephus and the Jewish War (12%, 2 Votes)
  • The Mongol Empire (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (6%, 1 Votes)
  • I don't like any of those do something else! (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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  1. Stuff You Missed in History Class – Read my review.
  2. A History of the World in 100 Objects – no review yet, but stay tuned.
  3. BackStory with the American History Guys – no review yet, but stay tuned.
  4. Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – not yet, but this is by the same folks as number 1 on this list, howstuffworks.
  5. The Stuff of Genius – not yet, but I will do one soon.
  6. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – Read my review.
  7. The History of Rome – Read my review.
  8. In Our Time – This is an oldie but a goodie, I’ll have to do a review soon on this one too.
  9. Laughing Historically – No review yet.
  10. BBC History Magazine – Read my review.
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24 February
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Podcast Review: The History of Rome

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Rome - Colosseum

The History of Rome by Mike Duncan posted its first episode on Sunday December 30, 2007 and for the last 4 years he has been rocking the podcast world. In 2010 his podcast won the Podcast Award in the education category. It is a pretty big deal to win the podcast awards. Congratulations to Mike!

On iTunes History of Rome has 1,121 ratings and an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars! Wow! History of Rome is currently number 4 on the top 10 podcast on iTunes.

For this review I listened to episode 127 – Commanding the Economy. The duration of the episode was 28 minutes and change. It was released on February 21, 2011. Mike seems to keep the podcast fairly frequent. At the beginning of the podcast is a 60 second plug for audible. Strangely this didn’t bother me though. Mike has an almost hypnotic voice. It has a strange ability to calm you. It’s like meditation with history. But that’s good, really.

After the plug for audible there some calming music played then Mike gets right into the episode content, see his description of the episode below:

Rome’s economy was in disarray when Diocletian came to power and he initiated major overhauls to get the system running again.

As I mentioned before Mike has a great voice. He doesn’t say what he does for a living, but if he is not in radio he should be, what a voice! Here is what I could find on the History of Rome website’s about page in regards to Mike:

Mike Duncan grew up outside of Seattle, WA and has a degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Western Washington University. His deep and abiding love for Roman history is matched only by his deep and abiding love for Seattle Mariners baseball. He recently married and now lives in Austin, TX.

Mike reads nice and slow, but not too slow, just right actually. He does a great job doing a summary/overview of what will be covered in this particular episode. I don’t want to ruin the podcast for you, so I’m not going to cover the content that Mike went over. At the end of the podcast the same calm music plays.

I’m going to stay subscribed to this one! I really enjoyed it and look forward to more from Mike.

While doing my research I found two other reviews that have been done on the History of Rome Podcast. Frank Yeats for Suite101 did a review on May 20, 2010 and Charles Odom from the Yahoo! Contributor Network did a review on April 6, 2009.

In addition to the website the History of Rome Podcast also has a Facebook group.

As mentioned earlier, the History of Rome won the Podcast Awards for 2010 in the Education category. There is a Youtube video of the awards ceremony here, skip to 18:20 in the video to see just the education category:

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17 February
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Podcast Review: History According to Bob

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Bob gets right into it. No, “This is Bob and the show name”, nothing. The show I listened to was called, Atlanta Campaign Part 1 of 4. It was published 2/11/11. The episode was ten minutes and 32 seconds long. This is Bob’s description of the podcast episode:

This show is about the Atlanta campaign in May 1864 Part 1 of 4 this one deals with early movements and Rocky Face Ridge.

This particular episode could have used some visuals. It was hard to visualize the battle scene and who was where.

Bob is hard-core old school. He has a very distinctive almost nasally voice. His podcast has no music, no sponsors, no picture associated with the mp3. I’m some what surprised he had the show description in the lyrics field of the mp3.

I thought this particular episode was very well done. Its pretty quick so I won’t summarize it here, just go check it out for yourself. At the end of the show he does quickly cover the name of his website and sources he used to put together this episode

Even though, what I have written above criticizes Bob’s podcast, ignore all that. It has been said that content is king and if you agree with that, you will be very hard pressed to find a better history podcast than History According to Bob [iTunes Link]. Bob’s was the first history podcast available that I know of. I would say that it was one of the first 300 podcast available in the beginning. It came before History Podcast, my own creation. I still think History According to Bob is a stellar show! No one knows their stuff better than Bob. His is the podcast that inspired me to podcast. His show is simply awesome. If you only subscribe to one podcast this should be it.

History According to Bob is number 58 in the Top 100 history podcast on iTunes. His show has 114 ratings with an average rating of 5 stars.

After listening to this episode I decided to listen to the episode entitled Questions 86 as well. These are episodes that Bob creates specifically to cover what is happening with him personally and to go over the emails that he receives.

I was sorry to hear while listening to Questions 86 that Bob’s wife has cancer.  I hope she has a full recovery and is healthy soon!  I’ve missed out on a lot since not keeping up with his episodes. He does so many that I have a hard time keeping up. Strangely enough he talks about the show Who Do You Think You Are?, something that we talked about briefly in another podcast review posting, BBC History Magazine. Bob goes on to talk about request for episodes he has received and his addiction to the video game Mass Effect 3 (gotta love a guy who is a gamer). In addition to Who do You Think You Are, he also discusses the HBO program Rome.

Below is a YouTube video that Bob did on the cold war:

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16 February
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Listening to Podcast on an Android Phone

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I am one of the few who does not have an iPhone.  I think everyone would know how to subscribe to a podcast using their iPhone.  But, what if, like me, you have an android phone?  Well, I wanted to investigate this since I have one and sometimes I want to discover new podcast or subscribe to one and I don’t have wifi for my iPod, but I do have my trusty Android phone.  I found Google Listen.  It is an app from Google Labs.  The app allows you to search for podcast to listen to.  Once you find one you can subscribe and instantly listen to a podcast.  The podcast subscription will appear in you Google Reader under a folder called “Listen Subscriptions”.

It was hard for me to find the podcast I was looking for using my phone to search.  It was much easier to find the rss feed of the podcast, and paste it into google reader, then I dragged it to the Listen Subscriptions folder and presto, it was in my phone instantly.  That was easy, but it doesn’t solve the problem of finding and subscribing with just the phone.  It’s too bad google doesn’t have an easier way to do this.

Check out this in-depth youtube review of Google Listen:

Do you use another app for Android that you like?  Please share in the comments.

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09 February
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Podcast Status Update

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Soon you should see a new item for History Podcast in your iTunes list. Don’t get too excited its not a full History Podcast, but just a status update. Okay, you can get excited, I am! I want you to help me pick the next episode below.

Thats right, I want to start on the next episode of history podcast.  I’m going to put out a small status update podcast to let everyone know that I have not disappeared completely.  I do want to continue podcasting, but I need your help.  Can you help me go through all the request I have received?  I still have request that I got via email in 2005!  I want to get to them all, but I don’t know where to begin, so maybe you can help?  I’m putting a poll up on this post and it will remain up until sometime in March.  Hopefully by March I will have some time to begin podcasting again.  At least this one episode that you, the listeners and readers of this blog, will choose.  So without further delay, here is the poll:

Choose the next podcast episode

  • The 30 Years War (24%, 4 Votes)
  • Japanese aspirations to Empire, leading up to WWII (18%, 3 Votes)
  • Alexander the Great (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Spanish New World Empire (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Josephus and the Jewish War (12%, 2 Votes)
  • The Mongol Empire (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (6%, 1 Votes)
  • I don't like any of those do something else! (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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All of these choices are from a single email of requests that I received from Eric K. Don’t forget to check out our new Facebook Fan page and our Twitter! Thank you for listening and reading!

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08 February
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Podcast Review: BBC History Magazine – February 2011

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Do you know the saying, “Those who can’t, teach.” Well, this is a little like that. Since I can’t find the time to do a podcast of my own, I thought I could bring a few cool podcast to your attention. While doing so I want to also learn what other podcast are doing in my genre so that I can improve History Podcast. To find some good history podcasts, I did what anyone would do. I went to iTunes and look at the top 10 podcast. BBC History Magazine is number 9. Their most recent podcast goes over the some of the articles from their February magazine. This episode of their podcast runs 41 and a half minutes. It was released on January 1, 2011. The show begins with some light classical music. While the music plays the 3 hosts do a summary of what they will be covering in this episode.

They used the description field in the mp3 tags to show the following description if you are listening on a iPod:

Mark Ormand discusses the black death, Mark Nicholls explores the life of Sir Walter Raleigh, Simon Sebag Montefiore explains the challenges involved in writing a history of Jerusalem.

The show begins with a plug for one of BBC’s programs, Who Do You Think You Are? The show is on in the US too on NBC. It is available on Hulu as well. On the show celebrites find out about their ancestory and viewers follow them on their journey. There is also a magazine, Who Do You Think You Are.

Next the podcast moved on to interview Mark Nicholls the co-author of the book Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend. The book will be published on April 7, 2011.  Sir Walter Raleigh was a aristocrat, writier, poet, soldier, coutier, spy and explorer.

After this interview they took a quick break to plug the magazine BBC History Magazine, website, twitter and facebook page.

Next, the interviewed Mark Ormrod about his new book  The Black Death in England, 1348-1500. The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Ormrod gave a some what vivid description of the sysmptoms of Black Death, so be prepared for that. This, I thought, was the best interview of the three.

Lastly, they interviewed Simon Sebag Montefiore about his book Jerusalem: The Biography which releases on October 25, 2011. This interview takes place in a very noisy cafe and is hard to listen to, but the host does warn you of that before it starts.

The podcast ends with more about the magazine and what is coming up next episode while the same classical music we heard in the beginning plays.  I would recommend this podcast and intend to stay subscribed myself.

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