Rank #1: Special Delivery
The payoff is all in the delivery: Sending mail via cruise missile; preparing a strong-willed orangutan for primate parenthood; and failing to land a joke from the "gag file" of Phyllis Diller.
Oct 26 2016
Rank #2: Young Harriet
In 2017, a photograph of Harriet Tubman surfaced that had been lost to history for more than a century. In a feature of the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraits podcast, we hear the story behind this picture, and how its discovery changes the way we see Tubman – not just an icon of freedom and human dignity, but a courageous young woman.
May 27 2020
Rank #3: The Curse of the Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is one of the most iconic items in the Smithsonian's collections, but this glittering gem is rumored to have a dark side. French monarchs, an heiress, and at least one unlucky postman have met misfortune after possessing it—though does that really constitute a curse? This time on Sidedoor, we track the lore of this notorious gem through the centuries, from southern India, through the French Revolution, and across the Atlantic Ocean to its current home at the National Museum of Natural History, to find out for ourselves.
Aug 08 2018
Rank #4: Confronting the Past
In 1921, a riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows exactly how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it until nearly a century later. In this episode, Sidedoor explores the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it. Episode originally released Nov. 9, 2016.
Oct 11 2017
Rank #5: The Mystery Bones of Witch Hill
It begins a bit like a *Scooby Doo *episode: archaeologists digging at a place called “Witch Hill” discover mysterious human remains in an ancient trash heap. Who was this person? How’d they get there? Astonishingly, it would take 40 years to find out, and the story is way more surprising — and groundbreaking — than anyone could’ve ever imagined. So, grab your Scooby Snacks and join Sidedoor as we journey to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to see these unusual bones firsthand and meet the “meddling kids” trying to solve a mystery 700 years in the making.
Aug 22 2018
Rank #6: If These Bones Could Talk
Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a full and adventurous life. Then, at the age of 30, on an expedition to Russian Alaska in 1866, Kennicott was mysteriously discovered dead by a riverside. Rumors of all colors circulated about the cause of his death, although, it wasn’t until 135 years later, in 2001, that two Smithsonian forensic scientists cracked the case.
Jun 21 2017
Rank #7: Inventor, Photographer...Murderer
Meet Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneering and eccentric photographer from the 1800s whose work changed how people understood movement, and paved the way for the invention of motion pictures. But this inventor, artist, and showman also made a name for himself for something much less savory: murder. This time on Sidedoor, come for the ingenuity and stay for the scandal as we find out how a near-death experience, a handsome horse, and a rumored $25,000 bet helped Eadweard Muybridge change the course of photographic history.
Dec 12 2018
Rank #8: Painting Michelle Obama
The day that Amy Sherald heard that she had been chosen to paint the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, she called her mom to tell her the news, and then she told her dog. But soon after, the nerves set in. How was she going to create a portrait of one of the most iconic women in the world? In this episode of Sidedoor, we journey to Amy's studio to hear exactly how she captured the spirit of Michelle Obama in paint on canvas, and what she thinks of the reactions to her work.
Apr 25 2018
Rank #9: The People's Insect
To look at them, you might think, “Monarch butterflies aren’t going anywhere fast.” But each year, these beauties complete one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom, soaring more than a mile high to gather on a few mountaintops in Mexico they’ve never seen before, yet somehow they all know where to find. We unlock the secrets lives of monarchs, and learn how to support them on their journey.
May 13 2020
Rank #10: Masters of Disguise
Tales of deception and trickery: A sneaky orchid seeks sexually frustrated pollinator; a battle fought by decoys; and a gender-bending zombie invasion of the Chesapeake Bay.
Nov 23 2016
Rank #11: Murder Is Her Hobby
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work on a batch of stories you’re going to love. So this week, we're sharing one of our favorite eps from the fall. Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have -- like sewing, crafting, and knitting -- Frances revolutionized the male-dominated world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate dioramas depicting violent murder scenes. In this episode of Sidedoor, we'll explore Frances's morbid obsession, and discover why the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery chose to put them on display.
Apr 11 2018
Rank #12: Ponzi's Scheme
Nearly 100 years ago, Charles Ponzi stumbled across a loophole in the international postal system and turned it into one of the most infamous scams of all time. This time on Sidedoor, we follow Ponzi from his early days until his epic downfall, and hear from a postal investigator trained to catch swindlers like Ponzi who continue to use the U.S. mail for nefarious purposes.
Jan 08 2020
Rank #13: Abraham Lincoln: Prankster-in-Chief
We all know Abraham Lincoln, right? Well, we know one side of him—the grave-faced leader of a troubled country—but behind the face on the penny lies an unlikely jokester. This week, Sidedoor reveals the rascally side of our 16th president, and does it with a brand-new sound.
Apr 01 2019
Rank #14: Apollo 12's Really Close Call
On November 14, 1969, just four months after Apollo 11’s “giant leap for mankind,” the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket took off for the moon. Seconds later, a burst of static plunged the three-man crew into complete darkness while speeding toward space in a nearly dead spacecraft. For the 50th anniversary, we tell the often-overlooked story of Apollo 12, one full of danger, discovery, and the power of friendship.
Nov 13 2019
Rank #15: Finding Cleopatra
Edmonia Lewis was the first American woman of color to achieve international fame as a sculptor. Her 3,000-pound masterwork, “The Death of Cleopatra,” commemorated another powerful woman who broke with convention… and then the sculpture disappeared. On this episode of Sidedoor, we find them both.
Dec 11 2019
Rank #16: Dynamite!
In its heyday, dynamite was a transformative tool; it could blast rock quarries, excavate tunnels, and demolish buildings with power and reliability never before seen. But it also proved to be useful in some surprising ways. In this special episode of Sidedoor, we team up with the history podcast Backstory
to explore two less-typical applications of the explosive: the artistic blasting at Mount Rushmore, and how anarchists used dynamite to advance their political agenda in 1886.
Oct 30 2019
Rank #17: Aloha, Y’all
Close your eyes and think of Hawaii. That sound you undoubtedly hear? Well, that’s the ocean. But that other sound floating on the breeze—that’s the steel guitar, an indigenous Hawaiian invention that has influenced country, blues, and rock music since the turn of the 20th century. This time on Sidedoor, we follow a familiar sound with an unexpected origin and learn how the steel guitar helped Hawaiians preserve their culture and change American popular music.
Apr 24 2019
Rank #18: America's First Food Spy
In the 1800s, the American diet was mostly made up of meats, potatoes, cheese, and perhaps the occasional green bean. Fruits and other veggies? Not so much. But that all changed thanks to a group of 19th century food spies – globe-trotting scientists and explorers who sought exotic crops to enhance America’s diet and help grow the economy. A pioneer among them was David Fairchild, who nabbed avocados from Chile, kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and much more. In this episode, we learn about Fairchild's remarkable adventures and take a surprise trip to the Smithsonian archives to uncover a rare piece of food spy history.
Feb 28 2018
Rank #19: Butting Heads
Squabbles big and small: A dining room turns two besties into lifelong enemies; a researcher embraces the panda craze; and why some dinosaur skulls were built to take a beating.
Dec 07 2016
Rank #20: Gaming the System
Bending the rules: People sending their children through the U.S. Postal Service; a Sikh man in the early 1900s tries to use the Supreme Court's racist rulings to his benefit; and the little-known story behind the iconic folk song "Rock Island Line."
Dec 21 2016