Rank #1: The Wheel: Ferris' Big Idea
01: The first Ferris Wheel was invented to become America’s Eiffel Tower, making its grand debut at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The wheel’s inventor George Washington Gale Ferris was a clever and optimistic soul; he did everything in his power to ensure that his glorious mechanical ride would forever change the world.
That it did, but unfortunately, its inventor paid a horrible price.
FEATURING a visit to one of the most famous wheels in the world and a trip to one of Chicago’s newest marvels.
Rank #2: Miss Draper: The First Woman Ever Photographed
Dorothy Catherine Draper is a truly forgotten figure in American history. She was the first woman to ever sit for a photograph -- a daguerrotype, actually, in the year 1840, upon the rooftop of the school which would become New York University..
The circumstances that got her to this position were rather unique. She was the older sister of a professor named John William Draper, and she assisted him in his success and fame even when it seemed a detriment to her. The Drapers worked alongside Samuel Morse in the period following his invention of the telegraph.
The legendary portrait was taken when Miss Draper was a young woman but a renewed interest in the image in the 1890s brought the now elderly matron a bit of late-in-life recognition.
FEATURING Tales from the earliest days of photography and walk through Green-Wood Cemetery!
Rank #3: Franklin Gothic: The Invention of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin did more in his first forty years than most people do in an entire lifetime. Had he not played a pivotal role in the creation of the United States of America, he still would have been considered an icon in the fields of publishing, science and urban planning.
How much do you know about Benjamin Franklin the inventor? In this podcast (the first of three parts), Greg takes a dive into his early years as a precocious young inventor and writer, a witty and determined publisher, and a great mind in search of the natural world's great mysteries.
FEATURING: The origins of the lending library, the Franklin stove, swim fins and even kite-surfing!
Rank #4: Making the Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance feels like an American tradition that traces itself back to the Founding Fathers, but, in fact, it's turning 125 years old in 2017. This is the story of the invention of the Pledge, a set of words that have come to embody the core values of American citizenship. And yet it began as part of a for-profit magazine promotion, written by a Christian socialist minister!
In this podcast listen to the Pledge wording evolve throughout the years and discover the curious salute that once accompanied it.
Rank #5: The Secret History of Soft Drinks: A Tale In Four Flavors
There is something very, very bizarre about a can of soda.
How did this sugary, bubbly beverage – dark brown, or neon orange, or grape, or whatever color Mountain Dew is – how did THIS become such an influential force in American culture?
This is the strange and inconceivable story of how the modern soft drink was created. It's a story in four parts --
1) At the start of the 19th century, two dueling soda fountains in lower Manhattan would set the stage for a century of mass consumption.
2) Soft drinks weren't just tasty. For over a century, many believed they could provide a litany of cures to some of man's most vexing ills. It's from this snake-oil salesmanship that we get many of today's top soft-drink brands.
3) Coca-Cola may pride itself on its 'secret formula', but in fact that formula has frequently changed since the 1880s, when a Confederate war veteran first invented this magical brew mixing three exotic ingredients -- cocaine, wine and kola nut.
4) Soft drinks have professed to relieve many physical ills. By the 1950s they even attempted to promote weight loss. But the rise of diet drinks sparked a marketing war with manufacturers of one of their most reliable (and delicious) ingredients.
Rank #6: Every Day Is Thanksgiving: The History of the TV Dinner
American eating habits were transformed in the early 20th century with innovations in freezing and refrigeration, allowing all kinds of foods to be shipped across the country and stored for long periods of time. But it would actually be the television set that would inspire one of the strangest creations in culinary history -- the TV dinner.
Inspired by airplane meals, the TV dinner originally contained the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal, thanks in part to a massive number of overstocked frozen turkeys. The key to its success was its revolutionary heating process, allowing for all items on the tray to heat evenly. And the person responsible for this technique was a 22-year-old woman from Omaha, Nebraska named Betty Cronin, a woman later called 'the mother of the TV dinner.'
Rank #7: The Calling: Thomas Watson and the First Telephone
You may know the story of Alexander Graham Bell and his world famous invention. You may know that Bell made the very first phone call. But do you know the story of the man who ANSWERED that call?
His name was Thomas Augustus Watson. He met Bell when he was just 20 years old. He left the employment of Bell at age 27 a very rich man. What would you do with all that money? This is the story of the joyous consequences of being associated with a great inventor.
Rank #8: The Bowery Wizards: A History of Early American Tattoos
The art of tattooing is as old as written language but it would require the contributions of a few 19th century New York tattoo artists -- and a young inventor with no tattoos whatsoever -- to take this ancient art to the next level.
This is the story of the electric tattoo machine, how it was first perfected in a tiny tattoo parlor underneath a New York elevated train and how this relatively simple device changed the face of body art forever.
Subscribe to The First podcast on iTunes or stream it on Stitcher, Overcast or other podcast streaming services. Thanks for listening! -- Greg
Rank #9: Nikola Tesla and the Wireless World
The Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla is known as one of the fathers of electricity, the curious genius behind alternating current (AC), the victor in the so-called War of the Currents. But in this episode of The First, starting in the year 1893, Tesla begins conceiving an even grander scheme -- the usage of electromagnetic waves to distribute power.
Today we benefit from the electromagnetic spectrum in a variety of ways -- Wi-Fi, X-rays, radio, satellites. One of the roads to these inventions begins with Tesla and his experiments with remote control, using radio waves to operate a mechanical object.
But you may be surprised to discover Tesla's initial application of remote control. Far from inventing a children's toy, Tesla's remote controlled device would be used as a weapon of war.
CHECK OUT THE WHOLE SERIES Of 'THE FIRST' EPISODES! You can find them on iTunes, Stitcher or any place you listen to podcasts. Just search for 'The First Stories'.
Rank #10: The Real Housewives of Early America: The Story of the First American Cookbook
“Over the river and through the woods” into the history of early American cuisine.
The first published European cookbooks in the world weren’t meant to enshrine ideal meals but rather to inform a woman of her place in the household with titles like The English Housewife, The Compleat Housewife, The Frugal Housewife. But for American cooks, they lacked any ingredients that were native to the American colonies.
In 1796 a mysterious woman named Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, the first compilation of recipes (or receipts) using such previously unknown items as corn, pumpkins and ‘pearl ash’ (similar to baking powder). This book changed the direction of fine eating in the newly established United States of America. But Amelia herself remains an elusive creator.
Join Greg through a tour of 70 years of early American eating, identifying the true ‘melting pot’ of delicious flavors -- Dutch, Native American, Spanish, Caribbean and African -- that transformed early English colonial cooking into something uniquely American.
FEATURING early American recipes for johnnycakes, slapjacks and gazpacho!