“A big humbug” – that’s how one critic described America’s first subway system. Other opponents were more hyperbolic. It would release dangerous underground air, some said. It would disturb the dead, others said. A religious leader in Boston declared it a project of Lucifer himself. Why were people so opposed to this new form of transportation? To understand it, we have to rewind centuries – to a time when people thought that Earth was hollow, and that hell was directly under their feet.

EPISODE NOTES

• Andrew Rabin, University of Louisville

Natana Delong-Bas, Boston College

 William Beckford’s Vathek

• Fred T. Jane describing the early subway experience in “The Romance of Modern London”

• Article covering Mr. Lansing’s anger over the flooding of his office

• Novelty Over, The Boston Globe, September 1897

To See the Devil, The Boston Globe 1895

Round the Underground on an Engine, Fred T. Jane 1884

• Doug Most‘s book: “The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway”

• Readers: Paul Blanchard of “Media Masters” (and hear the episode with Pessimists Archive host Jason Feifer!)Roberto Scalese

• Music this episode: Caspar Babypants (theme music), Daniel Birch’s “In Pursuit of Silence”and “Sleep”, Ben Folds Five’s “Underground”, Megadeth’s “Go To Hell”, and John Philip Sousa’s “Opus 5″

 

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