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Tune In to the Knoxville Chronicles

Local History Lessons on the Go

This month, the Knoxville History Project showcases a selection of podcast episodes that you can listen to online from its series, Knoxville Chronicles, highlighting some of the most interesting of the city’s old stories that still have relevance today. Seasons one and two contain stories written by Jack Neely, with one by Paul James. Both are historians with the Knoxville History Project, a nonprofit educational organization focused on the history and culture of this city.   

In addition to the four stories highlighted below, podcast episodes include: The Saturnalia of 1893, A Dickens of a Knoxville Christmas, Knoxville’s Thanksgiving Traditions, In Walked Mr. Ghost, The Hottest Day and the Immortal Kiosk, and Matilda X.

Find all episodes by searching for “Knoxville Chronicles” on your preferred podcast app or point your browser directly to buzzsprout.com/2119094.

Adolph Ochs: The Printer's Devil 

Adolph Ochs was an unusual kid who was scared of a graveyard while he learned the ropes of newspaper publishing as a Printer’s Devil at the Knoxville Chronicle on Market Square in Knoxville during the 1870s. The lad went on to become the founder of a major American institution, the modern New York Times. A cultural leader who changed a whole profession, he established a national landmark and introduced a new way of celebrating a holiday. Ochs’s story connects Knoxville in post-Civil War Tennessee to booming, electric New York in the 20th century. Note: a new plaque on Wall Avenue commemorates the approximate location where Ochs worked at the Knoxville Chronicle, at the northeastern corner of Market Square. The podcast is written and read by Jack Neely.

The Conjure Man

The Knoxville area once known as the Bowery, roughly along Central Street up to today’s Old City, included hundreds of secondhand stores run by immigrants, early African American barber shops and movie theaters, the city’s first Chinese laundries, and livery stables and blacksmiths. The Bowery was also home to drugstores that sold things that regular drugstores wouldn’t. It was also the epicenter of an underground economy, the herb men, including Doc Mullins. By reputation, Mullins was known as a conjurer. Thanks to curious News-Sentinel columnist Bert Vincent we know a little about Mullins’ strange story. The podcast is written by Jack Neely and read by Alec Haralson.

The Night the FBI Nabbed a Nazi Spy at the Downtown YMCA

In 1944, the man everyone knew as Walter Othmer worked quietly as an electrician on Market Street near the Pryor Brown Garage. He lived at the downtown YMCA, which offered simple, dormitory-like accommodations for men who were new to town. He may have seemed like a regular guy – he was a thin man with wire-rimmed glasses and a very small mustache. A humble, friendly fellow who missed his wife and kid who lived back in Germany. But Walter Othmer wasn’t just another guy – he was a Nazi spy, and the FBI was about to nab him. The podcast is written by Jack Neely and read by Todd Etheridge.

Prof. Ijams and the Asylum

The state Deaf and Dumb Asylum had barely begun to prosper when it was commandeered during the Civil War for use as a military hospital. After the war, the campus was in poor shape, requiring new leadership.  One of the nation’s leading deaf and mute teachers, Prof. Joseph Ijams arrived, and over the next 18 years, through dedication and hard work, he brought the school back to prominence. His time also brought unexpected romance and sudden tragedy. After Prof. Ijams’ death, his youngest son went on to lead a strong local interest in wildlife, and his farm became a beloved park. Written by Paul James and read by Alec Haralson.

Sound design and editing by Pete Carty. Theme song composed by Mike Stallings. Season Two episodes are funded in part by federal award number 21.027 awarded to the City of Knoxville by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Arts & Culture Alliance. 

ABOUT KHP

The mission of the Knoxville History Project (KHP) is to research, preserve, and promote the history and culture of Knoxville, Tennessee. Donations to support the work of the Knoxville History Project, an educational nonprofit, are always welcome and appreciated. KHP’s publications include the local bestseller, Historic Knoxville: The Curious Visitor’s Guide, Historic Bearden: The 200-Year Story of Knoxville’s Fourth Creek Valley, and more. Copies are available at knoxvillehistoryproject.org and local bookstores, including Union Ave Books.

To get in touch, please contact us at 865-337-7723 or email paul@knoxhistoryproject.org.

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