History of the United States in 100 Objects Playlist

There are thousands of years of human experience and legacy here in North America, so much of which is left out of today’s history classes and hidden from today’s common knowledge, because if it wasn’t the actions of a white land-owning male, it probably didn’t make the cut. In this series centered around serendipitously found objects, Sam dives into the unwritten record of land today we call the United States, panting a picture of the people and places that came before, and still shape it today, as best as we can be determine.

This series alternates between free installments and episodes available to patrons only for the first year after they’ve been recorded – Become a patron (at any amount you want to contribute) to unlock all the most recent series content.

Playlist Episodes

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 19: Three Silver Higa Amulets, mid-1700s

--Three pendant amulets, in form of a forearm with closed fists
--made of silver;
---about ½ inch to 2/3 inchlong
--found in midden at site of Spanish outpost, Los Adaes, in present-day Louisiana
--dated to 18thcentury

These three silver amulets in the form of a fist, found among the remains of the Spanish colonial fortress of Los Adaes in modern-day Louisiana, were intended to protect women and infants against the evil eye during childbirth. The reflect the fear, conflict, and struggle over control of sex and reproduction, as well as good and evil magic, at a remote colonial outpost.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 16: The "PW" Hadley Chest, 1690-1710

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only:

An elaborately carved oak chest of unknown origin, but marked with the initials of a young unmarried lady, exemplifies the first regional artistic style ever to arise in the American colonies -- the "Hadley Chests" of the Connecticut River valley. Suggested reading: Clair Franklin Luther, "The Hadley Chest."The Winterthur Museum catalog entry on the chest, with more photos: http://museumcollection.winterthur.org/

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 18: Jesuit Brass Medallion with Image of Ignatius Loyola

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 18: Jesuit Brass Medallion with Image of Ignatius Loyola
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website:

--Made of brass, most likely in France, ca. 1720-1750
--1 inch long, with depictions of St. Ignatius Loyola & Saint Mary with Latin inscriptions
--Found in ruins of Fort Michilimackinac; in collection of Mackinac State Historic Parks, Michigan

A small brass religious medallion found in the house of a French fur trader inside a fortress on the remote Straits of Mackinac shows the immense power of small numbers of merchants and missionaries to control sprawling networks of diplomacy and trade, stretching from Europe all the way into the deep interior of North America, and to sway the course of wars and imperial power struggles.

Special thanks to Mackinac State Historic Parks and Dr. Lynn Evans for their help in producing this lecture.

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Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 14: The Winthrop Alchemical Physician's Chair

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only:

--Wainscot great chair with turned and carved ornaments--Made of Oak, by unknown maker in New York or Connecticut, 1660-75--Owned by John Winthrop, Jr.; held by Connecticut Historical Society. How do the enigmatic designs on an oak chair belonging to the governor, doctor, and alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr., reflect the teeming underground world of mystical and esoteric thought in colonial southeastern New England? Suggested reading: Neil Kamil, "Fortress of the Soul"; John Brooke, "The Refiner's Fire"; William Woodward, "Prospero's America"; Robert F. Trent, review of “Fortress of the Soul,” in American Furniture, 2005.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 17: The Hiawatha Belt

--Made of leather, sinew thread, and wampum (quahog shell) beads, ca. 1400s--In possession of the Onondaga Nation, central New York. This most ancient and precious ceremonial wampum belt, created by the Ondondaga tribe to record the proclamation of the Great Law of Peace at the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy (or more properly, the Haudenosaunee), was the subject of more than a century of legal wrangling, confusion, and controversy, even appearing at one point at the Chicago World's Fair, before finally returning to its home in upstate New York. Image: photo of the Hiawatha Belt, ca. 2015, by Stephanie Mach. See my recent article "Into the Fairy Castle" here: https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2021/08/into-the-fairy-castle-the-persistence-of-victorian-liberalism/

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 12: The Naylor Bowling Ball, 1670-1700

Unlocked after 1 year for patrons only:

America's oldest bowling ball, found in the backlot of a colonial house in Boston, and what it reveals about the Puritans' futile struggles against vice -- drunkenness, fornication, gambling, and even witchcraft.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 15: The Newport Spirit Bundle, 1700s

A small cloth sack, containing nails, beads, glass, and a cowrie shell, found under the floorboards of the garret of the oldest house in Newport, Rhode Island, points toward the continuation and adaptation of African practices in New England and throughout the complex "African Atlantic." We discuss with Michael J. Simpson, Phd student at Brown University, who is researching slavery and the slave trade in Rhode Island. Thank you to the Newport Historical Society for their help on this installment. Image: Components of the spirit bundle in a museum display -- 2005.12, Collection of the Newport Historical Society. Suggested Further reading: Jason R. Young, "Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery"; Judith Carney, "Black Rice"; Wyatt MacGaffey, "The Personhood of Ritual Objects," Etnofoor, 1990.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

UNLOCKED: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 10: The Peregrine White Cradle, ca. 1620

Made of willow wicker on a wood frame, made ca. 1620, and most likely in the Netherlands - Allegedly brought on the Mayflower; held by the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Mass.This rocking cradle was reportedly stowed on the Mayflower in anticipation of the birth of Peregrine White, the first English child born in New England, who came into the world as the ship was temporarily anchored in Provincetown Harbor. Passed down for centuries in the wealthy, powerful, and embattled White and Winslow families, the cradle reflects both the Pilgrims' unprecedented ambition to create a self-perpatuating European society in exile, and their strict child-rearing practices that sought to shape the infant into a miniature adult.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 13: Dutch Iron Fireback with a Robed Figure

Made of cast iron, probably in the Netherlands, ca. 1650 - found at the Schuyler Flatts, Colonie, New York - held by the New York State Museum. A mysterious fragment of an iron fireback found near the hearth of an old manor house in what was New Netherlands shows how we have misunderstood the Dutch - a people who strove for stability, domesticity, and traditional social hierarchy to link their far-flung colonies with the homeland. Image courtesy of the state of New York.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects, 8 # Pueblo Communion Chalice

Unlocked for the public after 1 year:
-Ceramic chalice, decorated in Jemez black-on-white style, with crosses
-made in pueblo of Giusewa, between 1598 and the 1630s
-found in the ruins of the Spanish mission at Giusewa, 1937

A simple pottery chalice, probably made by a local indigenous woman, reveals the early stages of interaction between Spanish missionaries and the ancient Pueblo civilization -- an intermingling that would lead to conflict, and eventually, a massive revolt that some have called "the first American Revolution." Image courtesy of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Laboratory of Anthropology. Suggested further reading: Archaeologies of the Pueblo Revolt: Identity, Meaning, and Renewal in the Pueblo World, edited by Robert W. Preucel, especially Matthew Liebman, "Signs of Power and Resistance: The (Re)Creation of Christian Imagery and Identities in the Pueblo Revolt Era"; Ramon Gutierrez, "When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away"

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 11: Human-Effigy War Club, ca. 1640s

Made of Hickory wood, shells, and copper on the Atlantic coast of North America, ca. 1640s, and held in the collection of Skokloster Castle, Sweden. This elaborately carved and ornamented wooden weapon was most likely ceremonial, created by a Lenape Indian artist to represent the authority of a chieftain or warrior. But how did this priceless Native American artifact end up in the collection of a castle in Sweden? This object and its journey tell a largely forgotten story of Sweden's moment of imperial glory and ambition in the mid-1600s, which left a mysterious imprint in North America. Suggested Further reading: James Nordin, "The Center of the World," Journal of Materical Culture, 2013 -- http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1032.4165&rep=rep1&type=pdf courtesy of Skokloster Castle.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 6: Bronze Cannon with Fleur-de-Lis Emblem, 1540s

About 10 ft. long-made in France, ca. 1540s-lost in shipwreck, ca. 1562-5, Located on bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Canaveral. We examine the mysteries surrounding a French bronze cannon recently discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Florida, amidst the wreckage of an unidentified sixteenth-century fleet. The cannon and other artifacts are rare, priceless remnants of French Protestants' ill-fated attempts to colonize North America before the Spanish, and their discovery sparked a heated international legal dispute. The mysterious shipwreck gives us a window into a rare moment when Europe's vicious religious wars spilled over into the Americas. Image courtesy of Bobby Pritchett., Pres., Global Marine Exploration Inc. Introductory music: Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata in D, played by Wanda Landowska on harpsichord.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 9: Bartmann Jug with Guelph Coat-of-Arms, 1600-1610

Made of salt-glazed stoneware, in Frechen, Germany, ca. 1605--Found at James Fort, Jamestown, Virginia--Held in Collection of Historic JamestowneIn some ways, this Bartmann (or "Bearded Man") stoneware beer jug with an effigy of a jovial fat man and coats of arms is typical of the wares that poured our of Germany in the 1600s, several of which were found in the long-lost ruins of James Fort, the first English fortress at Jamestown. On the other hand, a peculiar feature of its decorative crest suggests possible hidden meanings, hinting at secret Catholic sympathies threatening England's first serious effort to colonize the New World. Suggested Further reading: Beverly Straube, "European Ceramics in the New World: The Jamestown Example," https://www.chipstone.org/article.php/6/Jamestown-Example%E2%80%93Made

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 4: The Maine Norse Coin

After one year, my lecture on the only authentic pre-Columbian European artifact ever found in the United States becomes public.

Created in Norway, 1069-1080 AD, during reign of King Olaf Kyrre
--Made of silver alloy
--Found at Goddard Site, Naskeag Point, Maine, dated 1100s-1200s AD

The only authentic Norse artifact ever found in the United States, this small silver coin dated to the 11th century may be an elaborate hoax, or a crucial clue to trade and contact between Europe and America in the centuries between the fall of Vinland and the arrival of Columbus.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 7: The Dorion Mission Seal, ca. 1680s

Seal stamp, made of Bronze, with image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, made in Spain, ca. 1680s, possibly earlier-used by Santa Catalina de Guale mission, in Georgia and Florida, and found on Amelia Island, Florida. The only surviving Spanish mission seal ever found in the United States, this small bronze stamp was once the critical link to Spain's northernmost mission in America. Small enough to sit in the palm of the hand, the Dorion mission seal encapsulates a history of religious zealotry, conversion, and inter-imperial struggle in what is now the American southeast. Image courtesy of the History Miami Museum.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 2: Statuette of a Farming Goddess, ca. 1100 AD

Found in Monroe County, Illinois, made of bauxite or "flint clay", dated to early 12th century AD. We consider the statuette of a woman tearing into the back of a serpent (known to archaeologists as the Birger Figurine), which was found broken in pieces and buried in a pit outside of a small village site in Illinois. The figurine, despite its small size and condition, is the most exquisite piece of art surviving from the Mississippian civilization, a massive and powerful urban society that dominated the interior of North America for more than three hundred years before falling into decline and obscurity. The statuette most likely represents a goddess of death and rebirth that presided over the Mississippians' prosperous golden age. Suggested Further reading: Timothy Pauketat, "Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians"; Reilly and Garber, "Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms"; Guy Prentice, "An Analysis of the Symbolism Expressed by the Birger Figurine."

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 5: Set of Chevron-Patterned Glass Beads, ca. 1500

A set of nine chevron-patterned glass beads, made in Venice, ca. 1500, and found in Telfair County, Georgia. A fistful of Venetian glass beads may be the crucial clue to tracing the route of the first European explorer to raid and rampage through the interior of North America -- Hernando de Soto. Image courtesy of Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, flheritage.com

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 3: Scarlet Macaw Feather Sash, ca. 1150 AD

A sash made of yucca rope, leather, squirrel pelt, and scarlet macaw feathers - Found in Lavender Canyon, Utah, and dated to Ancestral Pueblo Civilization, ca. 1150 AD. Made with more than 2000 tiny macaw feathers, this sash is unique in the archeological record, probably the most complex and the most personal artifact ever found from the ancestral Pueblo civilization. Also informally called "Anasazi" and known for its cliff palaces, this civilization flourished for several centuries before collapsing in the 1100s, around the time when this complex and mysterious object was left behind in a cave.Special thanks to the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum for their help and support and making this lecture.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 1: Panther Effigy Pipe, 200-500 AD

Panther Effigy Pipe -Found in Posey County, Indiana-Carved from Steatite-dated to the Middle Woodland Period, 200-500 AD.In the first of the series on American objects and artifacts, we examine a tobacco pipe in the form of a wildcat -- specifically a puma, whose name comes from the Quechua word for "powerful." It was most likely used in rituals by shamans or priests of the Hopewell civilization, which built enormous, mysterious ceremonial complexes resembling Stonehenge -- only lacking a source of stone, did so out of wood and earth. The effigy pipe reflects the artistic range and sophistication of the Hopewell as well as their fascination with the mythic power of animals.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 19: Three Silver Higa Amulets, mid-1700s

--Three pendant amulets, in form of a forearm with closed fists

--made of silver;

---about ½ inch to 2/3 inchlong

--found in midden at site of Spanish outpost, Los Adaes, in present-day Louisiana

--dated to 18thcentury

These three silver amulets in the form of a fist, found among the remains of the Spanish colonial fortress of Los Adaes in modern-day Louisiana, were intended to protect women and infants against the evil eye during childbirth. The reflect the fear, conflict, and struggle over control of sex and reproduction, as well as good and evil magic, at a remote colonial outpost.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 16: The "PW" Hadley Chest, 1690-1710

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only:

An elaborately carved oak chest of unknown origin, but marked with the initials of a young unmarried lady, exemplifies the first regional artistic style ever to arise in the American colonies -- the "Hadley Chests" of the Connecticut River valley. Suggested reading: Clair Franklin Luther, "The Hadley Chest."The Winterthur Museum catalog entry on the chest, with more photos: http://museumcollection.winterthur.org/

Listen on SoundCloud

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 14: The Winthrop Alchemical Physician's Chair

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only:

--Wainscot great chair with turned and carved ornaments--Made of Oak, by unknown maker in New York or Connecticut, 1660-75--Owned by John Winthrop, Jr.; held by Connecticut Historical Society. How do the enigmatic designs on an oak chair belonging to the governor, doctor, and alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr., reflect the teeming underground world of mystical and esoteric thought in colonial southeastern New England? Suggested reading: Neil Kamil, "Fortress of the Soul"; John Brooke, "The Refiner's Fire"; William Woodward, "Prospero's America"; Robert F. Trent, review of “Fortress of the Soul,” in American Furniture, 2005.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 17: The Hiawatha Belt

--Made of leather, sinew thread, and wampum (quahog shell) beads, ca. 1400s--In possession of the Onondaga Nation, central New York. This most ancient and precious ceremonial wampum belt, created by the Ondondaga tribe to record the proclamation of the Great Law of Peace at the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy (or more properly, the Haudenosaunee), was the subject of more than a century of legal wrangling, confusion, and controversy, even appearing at one point at the Chicago World's Fair, before finally returning to its home in upstate New York. Image: photo of the Hiawatha Belt, ca. 2015, by Stephanie Mach. See my recent article "Into the Fairy Castle" here: https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2021/08/into-the-fairy-castle-the-persistence-of-victorian-liberalism/

Listen on SoundCloud

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 12: The Naylor Bowling Ball, 1670-1700

Unlocked after 1 year for patrons only:

America's oldest bowling ball, found in the backlot of a colonial house in Boston, and what it reveals about the Puritans' futile struggles against vice -- drunkenness, fornication, gambling, and even witchcraft.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 15: The Newport Spirit Bundle, 1700s

A small cloth sack, containing nails, beads, glass, and a cowrie shell, found under the floorboards of the garret of the oldest house in Newport, Rhode Island, points toward the continuation and adaptation of African practices in New England and throughout the complex "African Atlantic." We discuss with Michael J. Simpson, Phd student at Brown University, who is researching slavery and the slave trade in Rhode Island. Thank you to the Newport Historical Society for their help on this installment. Image: Components of the spirit bundle in a museum display -- 2005.12, Collection of the Newport Historical Society. Suggested Further reading: Jason R. Young, "Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery"; Judith Carney, "Black Rice"; Wyatt MacGaffey, "The Personhood of Ritual Objects," Etnofoor, 1990.

Listen on SoundCloud

UNLOCKED: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 10: The Peregrine White Cradle, ca. 1620

Made of willow wicker on a wood frame, made ca. 1620, and most likely in the Netherlands - Allegedly brought on the Mayflower; held by the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Mass.This rocking cradle was reportedly stowed on the Mayflower in anticipation of the birth of Peregrine White, the first English child born in New England, who came into the world as the ship was temporarily anchored in Provincetown Harbor. Passed down for centuries in the wealthy, powerful, and embattled White and Winslow families, the cradle reflects both the Pilgrims' unprecedented ambition to create a self-perpatuating European society in exile, and their strict child-rearing practices that sought to shape the infant into a miniature adult.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 13: Dutch Iron Fireback with a Robed Figure

Made of cast iron, probably in the Netherlands, ca. 1650 - found at the Schuyler Flatts, Colonie, New York - held by the New York State Museum. A mysterious fragment of an iron fireback found near the hearth of an old manor house in what was New Netherlands shows how we have misunderstood the Dutch - a people who strove for stability, domesticity, and traditional social hierarchy to link their far-flung colonies with the homeland. Image courtesy of the state of New York.

Listen on SoundCloud

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects, 8 # Pueblo Communion Chalice

Unlocked for the public after 1 year:
-Ceramic chalice, decorated in Jemez black-on-white style, with crosses
-made in pueblo of Giusewa, between 1598 and the 1630s
-found in the ruins of the Spanish mission at Giusewa, 1937

A simple pottery chalice, probably made by a local indigenous woman, reveals the early stages of interaction between Spanish missionaries and the ancient Pueblo civilization -- an intermingling that would lead to conflict, and eventually, a massive revolt that some have called "the first American Revolution." Image courtesy of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Laboratory of Anthropology. Suggested further reading: Archaeologies of the Pueblo Revolt: Identity, Meaning, and Renewal in the Pueblo World, edited by Robert W. Preucel, especially Matthew Liebman, "Signs of Power and Resistance: The (Re)Creation of Christian Imagery and Identities in the Pueblo Revolt Era"; Ramon Gutierrez, "When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away"

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 11: Human-Effigy War Club, ca. 1640s

Made of Hickory wood, shells, and copper on the Atlantic coast of North America, ca. 1640s, and held in the collection of Skokloster Castle, Sweden. This elaborately carved and ornamented wooden weapon was most likely ceremonial, created by a Lenape Indian artist to represent the authority of a chieftain or warrior. But how did this priceless Native American artifact end up in the collection of a castle in Sweden? This object and its journey tell a largely forgotten story of Sweden's moment of imperial glory and ambition in the mid-1600s, which left a mysterious imprint in North America. Suggested Further reading: James Nordin, "The Center of the World," Journal of Materical Culture, 2013 -- http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1032.4165&rep=rep1&type=pdf courtesy of Skokloster Castle.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 6: Bronze Cannon with Fleur-de-Lis Emblem, 1540s

About 10 ft. long-made in France, ca. 1540s-lost in shipwreck, ca. 1562-5, Located on bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Canaveral. We examine the mysteries surrounding a French bronze cannon recently discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Florida, amidst the wreckage of an unidentified sixteenth-century fleet. The cannon and other artifacts are rare, priceless remnants of French Protestants' ill-fated attempts to colonize North America before the Spanish, and their discovery sparked a heated international legal dispute. The mysterious shipwreck gives us a window into a rare moment when Europe's vicious religious wars spilled over into the Americas. Image courtesy of Bobby Pritchett., Pres., Global Marine Exploration Inc. Introductory music: Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata in D, played by Wanda Landowska on harpsichord.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 9: Bartmann Jug with Guelph Coat-of-Arms, 1600-1610

Made of salt-glazed stoneware, in Frechen, Germany, ca. 1605--Found at James Fort, Jamestown, Virginia--Held in Collection of Historic JamestowneIn some ways, this Bartmann (or "Bearded Man") stoneware beer jug with an effigy of a jovial fat man and coats of arms is typical of the wares that poured our of Germany in the 1600s, several of which were found in the long-lost ruins of James Fort, the first English fortress at Jamestown. On the other hand, a peculiar feature of its decorative crest suggests possible hidden meanings, hinting at secret Catholic sympathies threatening England's first serious effort to colonize the New World. Suggested Further reading: Beverly Straube, "European Ceramics in the New World: The Jamestown Example," https://www.chipstone.org/article.php/6/Jamestown-Example%E2%80%93Made

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 4: The Maine Norse Coin

After one year, my lecture on the only authentic pre-Columbian European artifact ever found in the United States becomes public.

Created in Norway, 1069-1080 AD, during reign of King Olaf Kyrre
--Made of silver alloy
--Found at Goddard Site, Naskeag Point, Maine, dated 1100s-1200s AD

The only authentic Norse artifact ever found in the United States, this small silver coin dated to the 11th century may be an elaborate hoax, or a crucial clue to trade and contact between Europe and America in the centuries between the fall of Vinland and the arrival of Columbus.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 7: The Dorion Mission Seal, ca. 1680s

Seal stamp, made of Bronze, with image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, made in Spain, ca. 1680s, possibly earlier-used by Santa Catalina de Guale mission, in Georgia and Florida, and found on Amelia Island, Florida. The only surviving Spanish mission seal ever found in the United States, this small bronze stamp was once the critical link to Spain's northernmost mission in America. Small enough to sit in the palm of the hand, the Dorion mission seal encapsulates a history of religious zealotry, conversion, and inter-imperial struggle in what is now the American southeast. Image courtesy of the History Miami Museum.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 2: Statuette of a Farming Goddess, ca. 1100 AD

Found in Monroe County, Illinois, made of bauxite or "flint clay", dated to early 12th century AD. We consider the statuette of a woman tearing into the back of a serpent (known to archaeologists as the Birger Figurine), which was found broken in pieces and buried in a pit outside of a small village site in Illinois. The figurine, despite its small size and condition, is the most exquisite piece of art surviving from the Mississippian civilization, a massive and powerful urban society that dominated the interior of North America for more than three hundred years before falling into decline and obscurity. The statuette most likely represents a goddess of death and rebirth that presided over the Mississippians' prosperous golden age. Suggested Further reading: Timothy Pauketat, "Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians"; Reilly and Garber, "Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms"; Guy Prentice, "An Analysis of the Symbolism Expressed by the Birger Figurine."

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 5: Set of Chevron-Patterned Glass Beads, ca. 1500

A set of nine chevron-patterned glass beads, made in Venice, ca. 1500, and found in Telfair County, Georgia. A fistful of Venetian glass beads may be the crucial clue to tracing the route of the first European explorer to raid and rampage through the interior of North America -- Hernando de Soto. Image courtesy of Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, flheritage.com

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 3: Scarlet Macaw Feather Sash, ca. 1150 AD

A sash made of yucca rope, leather, squirrel pelt, and scarlet macaw feathers - Found in Lavender Canyon, Utah, and dated to Ancestral Pueblo Civilization, ca. 1150 AD. Made with more than 2000 tiny macaw feathers, this sash is unique in the archeological record, probably the most complex and the most personal artifact ever found from the ancestral Pueblo civilization. Also informally called "Anasazi" and known for its cliff palaces, this civilization flourished for several centuries before collapsing in the 1100s, around the time when this complex and mysterious object was left behind in a cave.Special thanks to the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum for their help and support and making this lecture.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 1: Panther Effigy Pipe, 200-500 AD

Panther Effigy Pipe -Found in Posey County, Indiana-Carved from Steatite-dated to the Middle Woodland Period, 200-500 AD.In the first of the series on American objects and artifacts, we examine a tobacco pipe in the form of a wildcat -- specifically a puma, whose name comes from the Quechua word for "powerful." It was most likely used in rituals by shamans or priests of the Hopewell civilization, which built enormous, mysterious ceremonial complexes resembling Stonehenge -- only lacking a source of stone, did so out of wood and earth. The effigy pipe reflects the artistic range and sophistication of the Hopewell as well as their fascination with the mythic power of animals.

Listen on SoundCloud

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 16: The "PW" Hadley Chest, 1690-1710

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only:

An elaborately carved oak chest of unknown origin, but marked with the initials of a young unmarried lady, exemplifies the first regional artistic style ever to arise in the American colonies -- the "Hadley Chests" of the Connecticut River valley. Suggested reading: Clair Franklin Luther, "The Hadley Chest."The Winterthur Museum catalog entry on the chest, with more photos: http://museumcollection.winterthur.org/

Listen on YouTube

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 14: The Winthrop Alchemical Physician's Chair

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only:

--Wainscot great chair with turned and carved ornaments--Made of Oak, by unknown maker in New York or Connecticut, 1660-75--Owned by John Winthrop, Jr.; held by Connecticut Historical Society. How do the enigmatic designs on an oak chair belonging to the governor, doctor, and alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr., reflect the teeming underground world of mystical and esoteric thought in colonial southeastern New England? Suggested reading: Neil Kamil, "Fortress of the Soul"; John Brooke, "The Refiner's Fire"; William Woodward, "Prospero's America"; Robert F. Trent, review of “Fortress of the Soul,” in American Furniture, 2005.

Listen on YouTube

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 17: The Hiawatha Belt

--Made of leather, sinew thread, and wampum (quahog shell) beads, ca. 1400s--In possession of the Onondaga Nation, central New York. This most ancient and precious ceremonial wampum belt, created by the Ondondaga tribe to record the proclamation of the Great Law of Peace at the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy (or more properly, the Haudenosaunee), was the subject of more than a century of legal wrangling, confusion, and controversy, even appearing at one point at the Chicago World's Fair, before finally returning to its home in upstate New York. Image: photo of the Hiawatha Belt, ca. 2015, by Stephanie Mach. See my recent article "Into the Fairy Castle" here: https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2021/08/into-the-fairy-castle-the-persistence-of-victorian-liberalism/

Listen on YouTube

Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 12: The Naylor Bowling Ball, 1670-1700

Unlocked after 1 year for patrons only:

America's oldest bowling ball, found in the backlot of a colonial house in Boston, and what it reveals about the Puritans' futile struggles against vice -- drunkenness, fornication, gambling, and even witchcraft.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 15: The Newport Spirit Bundle, 1700s

A small cloth sack, containing nails, beads, glass, and a cowrie shell, found under the floorboards of the garret of the oldest house in Newport, Rhode Island, points toward the continuation and adaptation of African practices in New England and throughout the complex "African Atlantic." We discuss with Michael J. Simpson, Phd student at Brown University, who is researching slavery and the slave trade in Rhode Island. Thank you to the Newport Historical Society for their help on this installment. Image: Components of the spirit bundle in a museum display -- 2005.12, Collection of the Newport Historical Society. Suggested Further reading: Jason R. Young, "Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery"; Judith Carney, "Black Rice"; Wyatt MacGaffey, "The Personhood of Ritual Objects," Etnofoor, 1990.

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UNLOCKED: History of the United States in 100 Objects # 10: The Peregrine White Cradle, ca. 1620

Made of willow wicker on a wood frame, made ca. 1620, and most likely in the Netherlands - Allegedly brought on the Mayflower; held by the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Mass.This rocking cradle was reportedly stowed on the Mayflower in anticipation of the birth of Peregrine White, the first English child born in New England, who came into the world as the ship was temporarily anchored in Provincetown Harbor. Passed down for centuries in the wealthy, powerful, and embattled White and Winslow families, the cradle reflects both the Pilgrims' unprecedented ambition to create a self-perpatuating European society in exile, and their strict child-rearing practices that sought to shape the infant into a miniature adult.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 13: Dutch Iron Fireback with a Robed Figure

Made of cast iron, probably in the Netherlands, ca. 1650 - found at the Schuyler Flatts, Colonie, New York - held by the New York State Museum. A mysterious fragment of an iron fireback found near the hearth of an old manor house in what was New Netherlands shows how we have misunderstood the Dutch - a people who strove for stability, domesticity, and traditional social hierarchy to link their far-flung colonies with the homeland. Image courtesy of the state of New York.

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Unlocked: History of the United States in 100 Objects, 8 # Pueblo Communion Chalice

Unlocked for the public after 1 year:
-Ceramic chalice, decorated in Jemez black-on-white style, with crosses
-made in pueblo of Giusewa, between 1598 and the 1630s
-found in the ruins of the Spanish mission at Giusewa, 1937

A simple pottery chalice, probably made by a local indigenous woman, reveals the early stages of interaction between Spanish missionaries and the ancient Pueblo civilization -- an intermingling that would lead to conflict, and eventually, a massive revolt that some have called "the first American Revolution." Image courtesy of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Laboratory of Anthropology. Suggested further reading: Archaeologies of the Pueblo Revolt: Identity, Meaning, and Renewal in the Pueblo World, edited by Robert W. Preucel, especially Matthew Liebman, "Signs of Power and Resistance: The (Re)Creation of Christian Imagery and Identities in the Pueblo Revolt Era"; Ramon Gutierrez, "When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away"

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 11: Human-Effigy War Club, ca. 1640s

Made of Hickory wood, shells, and copper on the Atlantic coast of North America, ca. 1640s, and held in the collection of Skokloster Castle, Sweden. This elaborately carved and ornamented wooden weapon was most likely ceremonial, created by a Lenape Indian artist to represent the authority of a chieftain or warrior. But how did this priceless Native American artifact end up in the collection of a castle in Sweden? This object and its journey tell a largely forgotten story of Sweden's moment of imperial glory and ambition in the mid-1600s, which left a mysterious imprint in North America. Suggested Further reading: James Nordin, "The Center of the World," Journal of Materical Culture, 2013 -- http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1032.4165&rep=rep1&type=pdf courtesy of Skokloster Castle.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 6: Bronze Cannon with Fleur-de-Lis Emblem, 1540s

About 10 ft. long-made in France, ca. 1540s-lost in shipwreck, ca. 1562-5, Located on bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Canaveral. We examine the mysteries surrounding a French bronze cannon recently discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Florida, amidst the wreckage of an unidentified sixteenth-century fleet. The cannon and other artifacts are rare, priceless remnants of French Protestants' ill-fated attempts to colonize North America before the Spanish, and their discovery sparked a heated international legal dispute. The mysterious shipwreck gives us a window into a rare moment when Europe's vicious religious wars spilled over into the Americas. Image courtesy of Bobby Pritchett., Pres., Global Marine Exploration Inc. Introductory music: Domenico Scarlatti, Sonata in D, played by Wanda Landowska on harpsichord.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 9: Bartmann Jug with Guelph Coat-of-Arms, 1600-1610

Made of salt-glazed stoneware, in Frechen, Germany, ca. 1605--Found at James Fort, Jamestown, Virginia--Held in Collection of Historic JamestowneIn some ways, this Bartmann (or "Bearded Man") stoneware beer jug with an effigy of a jovial fat man and coats of arms is typical of the wares that poured our of Germany in the 1600s, several of which were found in the long-lost ruins of James Fort, the first English fortress at Jamestown. On the other hand, a peculiar feature of its decorative crest suggests possible hidden meanings, hinting at secret Catholic sympathies threatening England's first serious effort to colonize the New World. Suggested Further reading: Beverly Straube, "European Ceramics in the New World: The Jamestown Example," https://www.chipstone.org/article.php/6/Jamestown-Example%E2%80%93Made

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 4: The Maine Norse Coin

After one year, my lecture on the only authentic pre-Columbian European artifact ever found in the United States becomes public.

Created in Norway, 1069-1080 AD, during reign of King Olaf Kyrre
--Made of silver alloy
--Found at Goddard Site, Naskeag Point, Maine, dated 1100s-1200s AD

The only authentic Norse artifact ever found in the United States, this small silver coin dated to the 11th century may be an elaborate hoax, or a crucial clue to trade and contact between Europe and America in the centuries between the fall of Vinland and the arrival of Columbus.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 7: The Dorion Mission Seal, ca. 1680s

Seal stamp, made of Bronze, with image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, made in Spain, ca. 1680s, possibly earlier-used by Santa Catalina de Guale mission, in Georgia and Florida, and found on Amelia Island, Florida. The only surviving Spanish mission seal ever found in the United States, this small bronze stamp was once the critical link to Spain's northernmost mission in America. Small enough to sit in the palm of the hand, the Dorion mission seal encapsulates a history of religious zealotry, conversion, and inter-imperial struggle in what is now the American southeast. Image courtesy of the History Miami Museum.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 2: Statuette of a Farming Goddess, ca. 1100 AD

Found in Monroe County, Illinois, made of bauxite or "flint clay", dated to early 12th century AD. We consider the statuette of a woman tearing into the back of a serpent (known to archaeologists as the Birger Figurine), which was found broken in pieces and buried in a pit outside of a small village site in Illinois. The figurine, despite its small size and condition, is the most exquisite piece of art surviving from the Mississippian civilization, a massive and powerful urban society that dominated the interior of North America for more than three hundred years before falling into decline and obscurity. The statuette most likely represents a goddess of death and rebirth that presided over the Mississippians' prosperous golden age. Suggested Further reading: Timothy Pauketat, "Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians"; Reilly and Garber, "Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms"; Guy Prentice, "An Analysis of the Symbolism Expressed by the Birger Figurine."

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 5: Set of Chevron-Patterned Glass Beads, ca. 1500

A set of nine chevron-patterned glass beads, made in Venice, ca. 1500, and found in Telfair County, Georgia. A fistful of Venetian glass beads may be the crucial clue to tracing the route of the first European explorer to raid and rampage through the interior of North America -- Hernando de Soto. Image courtesy of Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, flheritage.com

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 3: Scarlet Macaw Feather Sash, ca. 1150 AD

A sash made of yucca rope, leather, squirrel pelt, and scarlet macaw feathers - Found in Lavender Canyon, Utah, and dated to Ancestral Pueblo Civilization, ca. 1150 AD. Made with more than 2000 tiny macaw feathers, this sash is unique in the archeological record, probably the most complex and the most personal artifact ever found from the ancestral Pueblo civilization. Also informally called "Anasazi" and known for its cliff palaces, this civilization flourished for several centuries before collapsing in the 1100s, around the time when this complex and mysterious object was left behind in a cave.Special thanks to the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum for their help and support and making this lecture.

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History of the United States in 100 Objects # 1: Panther Effigy Pipe, 200-500 AD

Panther Effigy Pipe -Found in Posey County, Indiana-Carved from Steatite-dated to the Middle Woodland Period, 200-500 AD.In the first of the series on American objects and artifacts, we examine a tobacco pipe in the form of a wildcat -- specifically a puma, whose name comes from the Quechua word for "powerful." It was most likely used in rituals by shamans or priests of the Hopewell civilization, which built enormous, mysterious ceremonial complexes resembling Stonehenge -- only lacking a source of stone, did so out of wood and earth. The effigy pipe reflects the artistic range and sophistication of the Hopewell as well as their fascination with the mythic power of animals.

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And Wait, There’s More

In addition to the 6 main playlists, Historiansplaining boasts a multitude of one-off episodes along with 3 playlists with guests, current events, or commentary on recent books, film & television – each with a Quick Sample of a featured episode:


Things You Don’t Know

Did Columbus really think that he was going to reach Asia?
What little do we actually know about Shakespeare, the person?
Why is it misleading to apply the word “religion” to Judaism and Hinduism?
Are people really becoming less religious than they used to be?
How did Tisquantum (popularly known as Squanto) already know how to speak English before the Pilgrims had ever arrived?
What did Netflix’s “The Dig” miss about the most dramatic part of the whole Sutton Hoo discovery?
What does the English Civil War of the 1640s tell us about the American Civil War, and about the present?
What can we know about enslaved Africans who were held in a specific New England house, even without written records?
Who were the Freemasons of the 1700s? How did they grow from a local Scottish fraternity to a global network?
Could all of British history have turned out differently if the winds on the English channel had shifted direction on just one day in 1066?
What did followers of the ancient and secretive branch of Christianity, Gnosticism, actually believe?
Why can no one agree on what “capitalism” actually is? And why does a lack of clear definition call into question so many other myths of the modern world?
How – and why – did universities begin in the Middle Ages, long before the scientific revolution and the “Enlightenment”?
Was there really an Exodus from Egypt like the one described in the Bible?
How did changes in the climate in the 1600s lead people to think they were living in the Apocalypse? How did this help spur the creation of institutions and forces that still shape the world today?
How did accusing people of witchcraft further several political agendas of the time?
Why did every Renaissance-era ruler in Europe have a court astrologer?
Does a single coin prove that Vikings came all the way to what’s now the United States?
Why is the dramatic 2019 fire at Paris’ Notre Dame actually a common occurrence for cathedrals around Europe?
Why don’t US citizens directly elect their President? Or have a more proportional Senate?

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