Hidden History

Hidden History, produced by WCAI Morning Edition co-host Brian Morris, focuses on lesser-known historic events, places and people from around Cape Cod, the Islands and the South Coast.

You can hear Hidden History during every other Monday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Have a great idea for a Hidden History story? Send Brian Morris an email.

Brian MorrisWCAI

Cape Cod’s fire towers –like the one at Howlands Park Hill in Falmouth - have played a major role in helping to detect fires for over a century – and today they’re used in much the same as they always have been.

Joshua Nigro is a District Fire Warden with the State Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Brian MorrisWCAI

An archaeological dig in North Chatham recently uncovered the original homestead of two of Chatham’s earliest white residents, William and Anne Busby Nickerson. They built their house on a site near Ryder’s Cove in 1664, but the site was never preserved, and gradually was reclaimed by the surrounding land.

About 20 years ago, the Nickerson Family Association established its headquarters near where they believed William and Anne’s homestead had stood. They undertook the recent archaeological dig to try and pinpoint the exact location.

Brian Morris/WCAI

Nathan and Polly Johnson were two of New Bedford’s leading abolitionists in the mid-1800s. It was in their house that a 20-year-old Frederick Douglass found refuge after fleeing slavery on a Maryland plantation.

Brian Morris/WCAI

The mural at the Cape Cinema movie theater is one of the Cape’s largest, most unusual works of art.

The Cape Cinema opened in June, 1930. It was built by Raymond Moore, who had established the Cape Playhouse in 1926, then decided to build a movie theater nearby.

Brian Morris/WCAI

In Woods Hole, just outside the village, a futuristic-looking dome stands on a hill behind a clump of trees. It's a geodesic dome designed in 1953 by Buckminster Fuller, the progressive architect known for conceiving structures using fewer materials—doing more with less. He was hired to create an eye-catching addition to a restaurant on the site, which was owned by Gunnar Peterson.

Harwich Historical Society

Cape Cod has been well documented through the years by both amateur and professional photographers. Among the most fascinating images of the Cape are those taken when the area was beginning to emerge as a tourist destination for average Americans – when more and more people owned cars and could afford to take vacations. The Brooks Academy Museum in Harwich is currently displaying a collection of photos taken during the 1930s by Harwich photographers Lawrence Robbins and Alan Cahoon.

Nantucket Historical Association

Annie Nahar was born in 1844. Records of her life are spotty, but the little information available reveals a woman of remarkable courage.

Brian Morris/WCAI

Spiritualism has been part of the history of Onset village for well over 100 years. The spiritualist movement first took hold there in the late 19th century, enjoyed a heyday in the early 1900’s, and continues to survive today.

It began with groups of people coming together to communicate with the afterlife. The first group of spiritualists began holding camp meetings on the shores of Onset Bay.

Brewster Historical Society

Hellen Keller spent time in Brewster during several summers as a child. She was born in Alabama, and became deaf and blind at 19 months old. Keller’s connection to Brewster was through a local woman named Sophia Crocker-Hopkins, who ran a boarding house for summer visitors. 

Todd Kennelly

The Cape Cod Coliseum is a former entertainment venue in South Yarmouth that once hosted ice hockey games, professional wrestling matches, as well as some of most legendary acts in rock music.

The Coliseum opened in 1972. It was initially built as an arena for youth and amateur ice hockey matches, and was home to the Cape Cod Cubs of the Eastern Hockey League.

Nantucket Historical Association

In the 1830s, silk was all the rage in fashion. And Nantucket decided to get in on the action.

“There was a lot of speculation along the eastern seaboard about establishing silk in the United States,” said Nantucket resident and historian Barbara White.

So, two Nantucket entrepreneurs planted 4,000 mulberry trees in the Polpis area of the island.

“The trees got established, and in 1832, they opened a silk factory,” said White.

It was thought that the mulberry trees and the silk that they fed would thrive on Nantucket.

Brian Morris/WCAI

Each year, a Cape Cod ham radio club commemorates the role that wireless communication played in rescuing survivors from the Titanic in 1912.

The Club calls itself the Titanic/Marconi Association of Cape Cod. Their call sign is WIMGY, the last 3 letters of which were the same call sign of the Titanic.

Rick Pendleton hails from Braintree, but he comes to the Cape every year to participate in the event.

Brian Morris/WCAI

May 29th marks the 100th birthday of John F. Kennedy, the nation’s 35th President. Ann Mulligan of Brighton has a family connection to the late president. Her mother spent 49 years as the personal assistant to Cardinal Richard Cushing, who was Archbishop of Boston from 1944 to 1970. Cardinal Cushing was a close friend of the Kennedy family, officiating at JFK’s marriage to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1953, and at his funeral Mass 10 years later following the President’s assassination in Dallas.

Woods Hole Historical Museum

Though barely a trace remains today, the Pacific Guano Company operated for 26 years on what is now Penzance Point in Woods Hole, transforming what was a sleepy farming village into a thriving community.

Huffington Post

“America the Beautiful” has endured for more than a century as one of our country’s best-loved patriotic songs. It began as a poem written by Katharine Lee Bates, who was born in Falmouth and spent much of her life as a teacher at Wellesley College.

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