Show Notes

Season 4:

Season 4 Episode 1 – Hamilton, Burr, and the Murder of Elma Sands (Show Notes) – October 25, 2022

In our Season 4 premiere we dig into the 1799 murder of Elma Sands, a young woman whose body was found in the Manhattan Well. With a boardinghouse full of suspects—none of whom can be trusted—the trial was always going to be a sensation. But with the accused killer Levi Weeks being defended by the dream team of rivals Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, it became a truly dramatic event.

Season 4 Episode 2 – A Perfect Monster: Burr, Hamilton, and the Manhattan Company (Show Notes) – November 1, 2022

In 1799, New York City needed clean water to prevent the spread of Yellow Fever and Aaron Burr needed a friendly bank to fund his election efforts. We dig into how the brilliant, scheming Burr addressed both problems at once with the “perfect monster” known as The Manhattan Company, and how he duped Alexander Hamilton into being his greatest champion.

Season 4 Episode 3 – The Resounding Will of Benjamin Franklin (Show Notes) – November 8, 2022

We look at the haunting sounds and even more haunting history of Benjamin Franklin’s favorite invention: the glass armonica. Then we welcome author Michael Meyer to discuss his new book Benjamin Franklin’s Last Bet. The conversation brings Franklin to life and covers his unique bequests to the cities of Philadelphia and Boston and his rocky relationship with his son (hereby known as William Franklin, Patriot Hunter). We also touch on what Elon Musk and modern politicians could learn from Franklin.

Season 4 Episode 4 – Why John Adams Hated Benjamin Franklin (Show Notes) – November 15, 2022

We delve into the reasons behind John Adams’s intense loathing of Benjamin Franklin, from their time as strange bedfellows in the Second Continental Congress to their time in France as diplomats with wildly different methods and work ethics. Even long after Franklin’s death, Adams held a grudge against the man he considered a phony, glory-stealing sloth.

Season 4 Episode 5 – Friendsgiving Spectacular – November 21, 2022

It’s a Thanksgiving supergroup of history podcasters when Howard joins Kenny Ryan of [Abridged] Presidential Histories, Alycia from Civics & Coffee, and Jerry Landry from Presidencies of the United States for a special Friendsgiving spectacular to talk about some of their favorite things.

Season 4 Episode 6 – The Passion of Benjamin Franklin (Show Notes) – November 29, 2022

We dig into the stories behind Benjamin Franklin’s notoriously naughty reputation on a quest to determine whether he was a flirt, a feminist, or the philandering father of dozens of children. And we dive into a letter of Franklin’s that was considered too obscene to print until 150 years after his death.

Season 4 Episode 7 – Treasures of Healthcare History with Tegan Kehoe (Show Notes) – December 6, 2022

Guest Tegan Kehoe—medical historian and author of the fascinating new book “Exploring American Healthcare Through 50 Historic Treasures”—joins Howard for an enlightening and personal discussion about George Washington’s dentures, Vitamin D beer, the tragic story of the Kennedy baby, and our firsthand experiences with lifesaving advancements in preemie care. But first, Howard and Jess talk about a medical treatment gone wrong with Thomas Jefferson’s nightmarish trip to Warm Springs, Virginia in 1818.

Season 4 Episode 8 – Teddy Bear’s Creation Myths (Show Notes) – December 20, 2022

We dig into the chaotic 1902 Mississippi bear hunt that forever linked Teddy Roosevelt to a cute bear. Then we explore the competing versions of the teddy bear’s origin—and the clear winner—as well as the bizarre backlash against the teddy bear craze in 1907.

Season 4 Episode 9 – The Rise and Fall of Billy Possum (Show Notes) – May 8, 2023

No one could have predicted the Teddy Bear would be more than just a fad, and a lot of folks bet on its successor being the Billy Possum. This episode digs into the birth of the toy possum’s association with William Howard Taft at a lavish Atlanta banquet in 1909, the innovative and disturbing promotional efforts of Susie W. Allgood to make Billy Possum happen, and the series of events that led to the stuffed marsupial’s downfall.

Season 4 Episode 10 – John Quincy vs. The Sun, The South & The Mole People (Show Notes) – May 15, 2023

Guest Bob Crawford tells us about his new podcast “Founding Son: John Quincy’s America” and John Quincy Adams’s epic post-presidential battle against the Southern slavocracy and the Gag Rule. Before that, we dig into JQA’s battle with solar eclipses and cover some exciting updates about JQA and the mole people—a myth we first discussed in our Season 1 episode “John Quincy Adams vs. The Internet.”

Season 4 Episode 11 – Populism in The Wizard of Oz (Show Notes) – May 23, 2023

We go on a bimetal-curious adventure over the rainbow to dig into the history of L. Frank Baum’s American fairy tale The Wizard of Oz and its alleged connections to William Jennings Bryan and the Populist movement of the 1890s. Then, Howard talks with author Peter Shea about Bryan and other presidential candidates who never made it to the presidency—including Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun—all featured in Shea’s book “In The Arena: A History of American Presidential Hopefuls.”

Season 3:

Season 3 Episode 1 – Thomas Jefferson’s Killer Ram (Show Notes) – August 31, 2021

In our Season 3 premiere, we dig into how Thomas Jefferson’s lust for wool contributed to a death on the White House lawn. Come for the killer ram, stay for the sheep breeding and a quiz that could save you from getting rammed.

Season 3 Episode 2 – Potty-Mouthed Parrots (Show Notes) – August 31, 2021

We continue the theme of naughty animals and dive into the stories of two parrots named Polly – Dolley Madison’s violently jealous macaw and Andrew Jackson’s purportedly potty-mouthed parrot.

Season 3 Episode 3 – Lindsay Chervinsky & Washington’s Cabinet of Personalities (Show Notes) – September 14, 2021

We welcome our inaugural guest, Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Making of an American Institution, and she shares her incredible insights about the personalities and relationships of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton.

Season 3 Episode 4 – The Mythology of Mary Ball Washington (Show Notes) – September 21, 2021

We dig into the truth of the most popular allegations biographers have levied against George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington. We also trace the origins of two legends about her – the deadly lightning bolt said to have changed her and her founding fetus forever and the story of a wild horse (you thought we were done with animals?) that inspired the legend of young George and the cherry tree. Along the way we look at two recent biographies of Mary that approach their subject with very different perspectives.

Season 3 Episode 5 – Cara Finnegan & Photographic Presidents (Show Notes) – September 28, 2021

Author Dr. Cara Finnegan (Photographic Presidents: Making History From Daguerreotype to Digital) joins Howard for a conversation about the early days of photography and some of the most intriguing presidential photographs, including a photo of a painting of William Henry Harrison that looks eerily lifelike and a “spirit photograph” of Mary Lincoln and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Before the interview, Jess and Howard tackle Jimmy Carter’s brief but devastating encounter with a “killer” swamp rabbit, and the photographic proof.

Season 3 Episode 6 – The Amistad, The Creole, and Madison Washington (Show Notes) – October 5, 2021

We explore the incredible story of the Amistad captives and the sensation sparked by their rebellion, along with the opportunities their situation offered to the abolitionist cause and the rabble rousing John Quincy Adams. And we look at the impact of the Amistad rebellion on one man named Madison Washington who helped lead the most successful slave revolt in American history aboard a ship called The Creole.

Season 3 Episode 7 – Conspiracy Theories & The Corrupt Bargain with Mark Cheathem (Show Notes) – October 12, 2021

We look at the role of the Illuminati in the Election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson before welcoming Dr. Mark Cheathem to the show. He teaches a course on conspiracy theories in American history at Cumberland University, and he joined us to talk about his course, his personal inspiration for teaching it, and conspiratorial thinking. Then we dig into a conspiracy theory about a rigged election and the men who rode it all the way to the White House – Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

Season 3 Episode 8 – The Haunted Hermitage & The Stone Library Heist (Show Notes) – October 19, 2021

First, the Hermitage’s director of interpretation Bryan Gilley shares a historical haunting from Andrew Jackson’s home and a hair-raising experience of his own. Then, Adams National Historical Park curator Kelly Cobble describes the hauntingly beautiful Stone Library built to house John Quincy Adams’s books. And then we dig deeper into something Cobble mentioned – a 1996 heist at the Stone Library where the priceless Mendi Bible was stolen.

Season 3 Episode 9 – Ghosts of the White House & New England with Jeff Belanger (Show Notes) – October 26, 2021

We dig into the dubious story of Winston Churchill’s naked encounter with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Then we welcome author, paranormal investigator, and New England Legends host Jeff Belanger for a fascinating conversation about the long history of reported hauntings in the White House, why New England has so many legends, and the value of ghost stories in teaching history.

Season 3 Episode 10 – Mary Hellen’s Petticoat Magic (Show Notes) – November 9, 2021

We explore the tragic stories of John Quincy Adams’s sons—George Washington Adams, John Adams II, and Charles Francis Adams—through the structure of their cousin Mary Hellen playing a real life game of “F*ck Marry Kill” with them.

Season 3 Episode 11 – Benjamin Rush To Judgment (Show Notes) – November 16, 2021

In our third season finale, we look at confounding founder Benjamin Rush—his outstanding humanitarian accomplishments, his controversial bleeding and purging treatments during the Yellow Fever epidemics, and the dramatic trial where he sued newspaper publisher William Cobbett for libel for accusing him of killing his patients.

Season 2:

Season 2 Episode 1 – Paranormal Presidents Part 1 (Show Notes)

In our Season 2 premiere, we dig into three stories where presidential history meets the paranormal. They include an apparition of John Adams spotted while he was alive and well, the medieval ritual of “bier right” that figured into a murder trial where John Adams was the defense attorney, and the nursery bogey of Rawhead and Bloody Bones who frightened founders like Thomas Jefferson as children.

Season 2 Episode 2 – Paranormal Presidents Part 2 (Show Notes)

In our paranormal conclusion we dive into the wild story of Andrew Jackson and the Bell Witch, who terrorized the Bell family of Tennessee from 1817-1821. Then we explore John Quincy Adams’s electrifying adventures in the hereafter via a bizarre spiritual autobiography written by the medium Joseph Stiles in 1859.

Season 2 Episode 3 – Alexander Hamilton & John Adams: A Superabundance of Hate (Show Notes)

We explore the glorious mutual hatred of Alexander Hamilton, two men who despised each other more than any other founders. Their loathing is traced from the Revolutionary War to their power struggles during the Quasi-War, and the torch of hate is even carried by Adams years after Hamilton’s untimely death.

Season 2 Episode 4 – Elizabeth Jefferson’s Earthquake Drowning (Show Notes)

We examine the lives and mysterious deaths of Elizabeth Jefferson and her enslaved body servant Little Sall, who drowned in the Rivanna River just days after the first recorded earthquake in Virginia’s history. We also dig into how Elizabeth’s apparent intellectual disabilities were handled by biographers over the years.

Season 2 Episode 5 – Died On The Fourth Of July (Show Notes)

We have a good time exploring the unbelievable “coincidence” of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both dying on the Fourth of July on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the uncomfortable fact that James Monroe also died on the Fourth of July five years later, and the circumstances surrounding James Madison’s deliberate choice to break with this weird tradition.

Season 2 Episode 6 – Finding Madison’s Funny Bone (Show Notes)

We have a good time exploring the unbelievable “coincidence” of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both dying on the Fourth of July on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the uncomfortable fact that James Monroe also died on the Fourth of July five years later, and the circumstances surrounding James Madison’s deliberate choice to break with this weird tradition.

Season 2 Episode 7 – Gouverneur Morris and the Vampire of Bizarre (Show Notes)

We delve into the big penman energy of founding father Gouverneur Morris, the peg-legged sex-positive anti-slavery aristocrat who penned multiple constitutions and sailed through life with care-free confidence. We also explore the story of his wife, Ann Cary “Nancy” Randolph and the sensational scandal at Bizarre that she struggled to overcome.

Season 2 Episode 8 – The Peacemaker and the Cradle Robber (Show Notes)

In our Season 2 finale, we take on the single deadliest disaster to befall a presidential cabinet – the explosion aboard the USS Princeton in 1844. We look at four of the key players aboard and how they got there – President John Tyler, Secretary of State Abel Upshur, Captain Robert Stockton, and Julia Gardiner, “The Rose of Long Island” – and how this tragedy shook up Tyler’s plans for love and Texas.

Bonus Episode- The Sauciest Presidential Love Letters (Show Notes)

In this special bonus podcast timed for Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day, we discuss a few love letters from early presidents like John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson before diving into the raunchy trove of letters that came out of Warren G. Harding semi-treasonous affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips. Extra listener discretion advised.

Season 1:


Introducing Season 1 of the Plodding Through The Presidents podcast with presidential history blogger Howard Dorre and his wife Jessica Dorre.

Season 1 Episode 1 – John & Abigail & Smallpox (Show Notes)

We dig into the separate smallpox inoculations of John and Abigail Adams and the heartfelt and hilarious love letters this supercouple exchanged during their quarantines, along with some background on Lady Mary Montagu’s bold introduction of the smallpox inoculation from Turkey to England.

Season 1 Episode 2 – Jefferson’s Broken Heart and Wrist (Show Notes)

We explore Thomas Jefferson’s dangerous liaison in Paris with the talented artist Maria Cosway and her monkey-like husband Richard Cosway – a love story that resulted in two broken hearts, one permanently damaged wrist, and one epic 4000-word love letter written as a dialogue between Jefferson’s head and heart.

Season 1 Episode 3 – The Scandalmonger’s Revenge (Show Notes)

We dig into the rise and fall of James Thomson Callender, the pamphleteer who exposed the greatest sex scandals in early American history. His story is told through his attacks on Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.

Season 1 Episode 4 – A Tale of Two Stepsons (Show Notes)

George Washington and James Madison never had any biological children, but they each had a problem child stepson. We explore the lives of the “voluptuous” Jacky Custis and the debauchery enthusiast John Payne Todd and how they affected their famous stepfathers and mothers.

Season 1 Episode 5 – John Quincy Adams vs. The Internet (Show Notes)

We dive into the truth behind four popular stories about John Quincy Adams, including the inspirational “if your actions inspire others” quote, the pet alligator in the White House, the skinny dipping interview with reporter Anne Royall, and the expedition to the center of the earth to visit the mole people.

Season 1 Episode 6 – Andrew Jackson’s Slut-Shaming Evolution (Show Notes)

In our Season 1 finale, we trace Andrew Jackson’s feelings about women’s honor from his early days as a rowdy outhouse-mover to his tragic relationship with his wife Rachel and finally to the Petticoat Affair – the scandal surrounding Margaret Eaton that nearly took down his entire administration.