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BackStory podcast: 20th-century Industrial Disasters Still Affect Us

Recently I visited with the historians at BackStory radio, at their studio in Charlottesville. I was there to record a segment for an episode of their podcast titled “Death on the Assembly Line.”

We spoke about a factory fire in Baltimore in 1940 and how it influenced the discussion of national security in the months that followed, leading to the U.S. entry into World War II. Our conversation ranged over many topics: the fears of sabotage in America on the brink of the war, the role of cork in American industry, the nature of traditional harvesting in industry, innovation, and intelligence.

So I should have realized that they would take an inventive way of connecting several industrial disasters across the entire 20th century. The episode ranged from the Boston Molasses Flood of the early 1900s to the Hamlet fire in North Carolina in 1991, and from the Baltimore fire to the California energy fight brought by Erin Brockovich.

Listen to “Death on the Assembly Line” on the BackStory website here. Also, I’m happy to say that Cork Wars is the May 2019 pick for BackStory’s book club, BookStory! It’s a great group. Sign up here and join the discussion this month.

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