Not Your Century

On hiatus as of March 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis. Get unlimited access to the Chronicle. | A daily celebration of the news — and the news media — of years gone by. King Kaufman takes you on a quick tour of the Bay Area and the world as it used to be, which often colors the world of your century.

1975: Patty Hearst Arrested
A tip leads police to knock on a door in the Outer Mission. When Patty Hearst answers, it ends a 19-month odyssey that saw her go from kidnapped newspaper heiress to dangerous fugitive, wanted for bank robbery.
5 min
1920: The NFL Is Born
It all starts in a car dealership showroom in Canton, Ohio. Reprentatives of teams from the Midwest and Northeast sit on running boards as they hammer out the details of a league that, a half century later, will come to rule American sports.
5 min
1963: Birmingham Church Bombing
Even by the standards of "Bombingham," the explosion that ripped through the 16th Street Baptist Church was shocking. It was the 21st racist bombing in eight years, but the first fatal one, killing four girls as they got ready for Youth Day services.
5 min
1993: Oslo Accords Signed
Not long before Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin accepted the handshake offer of Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat during a White House ceremony, it had been illegal for an Israeli to talk to a PLO member.
5 min
1940: Lascaux Cave Paintings Discovered
Some teenage boys out for a walk in the woods stumble upon a living museum of prehistoric times, "a cavalcade of animals larger than life," the stunning colors of the drawings preserved by the cave's geology.
5 min
1998: The Starr Report
The case for impeachment against Bill Clinton is also a salacious page turner outlining the president's White House affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The independent counsel says the titillating details are necessary.
4 min
1963: Integration War in Alabama
President John F. Kennedy federalizes the National Guard in response to Gov. George Wallace using guardsmen to block black students from enrolling in schools after he'd pledged "Segregation forever."
4 min
1986: The First National Oprah Show!
She hadn't worked out as a TV reporter in Baltimore, but when Oprah Winfrey turned a low-rated local talk show in Chicago into a hit, she was on her way to building an empire. Going national was the next big step.
5 min
1978: The Top Female Cop in the World
SFPD Officer Dorothy Jorgensen has some wild stories from the mean streets of the Tenderloin after she's named Officer of the Year by an international women's police organization for her work as a decoy.
4 min
1975: Squeaky Fromme, Would-be Assassin
The Charles Manson follower has a clear shot at President Gerald Ford as he walks through a park in Sacramento, but her gun doesn't fire. It's the first of two Northern California attempts on the president's life in three weeks.
5 min
1977: The Golden Dragon Massacre
Three gang members walk into a crowded Chinatown restaurant in the wee hours with long guns. The worst mass shooting in San Francisco history to date kills 5 and wounds 11 — none of them the intended targets.
5 min
1976: Crisis on the Viking 2
The spacecraft has lost radio contact with earth and it's plunging through 1,000 miles of the martian atmosphere. This is not how the mission was planned. Will NASA's Hail Mary work?
4 min
Best of NYC: Labor
A collection of episodes with stories about work, workers and organized labor for your Labor Day listening. From the original March on Washington to Jimmy Hoffa's last lunch meeting.
22 min
Live! San Francisco History Trivia, Part 2
It’s the rest of the story as King Kaufman regales a live audience at the Betabrand Podcast Theatre in San Francisco with tales of a murderous editor and an animal activist on a moral crusade.
27 min
The “Vertigo” Mansion — Live!
That strange rooming house that Kim Novak slips into and disappears from in the movie? It had a strange story in real life. “Cool Gray City of Love” author and Portals of the Past columnist Gary Kamiya tells it to a San Francisco audience.
15 min
Reliving the Dotcom ’90s — Live!
Return to those VC-fueled days of yesteryear with Owen Thomas, who pestered his way onto the staff at and then became a chronicler of Silicon Valley at Valleywag, Red Herring and, now, the San Francisco Chronicle. Recorded live.
14 min
Live! San Francisco History Trivia, Part 1
Join King Kaufman and a living, breathing audience at the Betabrand Podcast Theatre in San Francisco for strange tales of murderous editors and naked mayors. First of four live episodes.
15 min
1920: The 19th Amendment
The women's suffrage amendment is quietly certified, a week after the deciding vote was cast in Tennessee by a young legislator who listened to his mom.
5 min
1879: San Francisco's Political Gunfight
S.F. Chronicle founder and editor Charles de Young's political beef with Baptist minister and mayoral candidate Isaac Smith Kalloch culminates in a shooting. But that's not where it ends.
6 min
1991: Gorbachev Survives Coup Flu
The Soviet president was held prisoner in his vacation home by hardliners who announced he was sick and threatened to remove him — maybe kill him — if he didn't back off his glasnost and perestroika reforms. He didn't.
6 min
1911: Mona Lisa Stolen
The Mona Lisa was famous among art lovers when Vincenzo Peruggia walked out of the Louvre with it under his arm. Since that moment, it's been the most famous painting in the world.
6 min
1968: Prague Spring Crushed
The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invade the capital of Czechoslovakia, bringing a violent end to the eight months of liberalization and reform under Alexander Dubček.
5 min
1957: The Giants Are Coming
The board of directors of the New York baseball Giants makes official something the Chronicle had reported three months earlier: The most successful team in National League history was moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season.
4 min
1965: A Tense Peace in Watts
The neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles has been wracked by six days of violence in the wake of a traffic stop of a black man by a white cop. Was the fighting a riot? Or was it a community rising up against its oppressors?
4 min
1969: Woodstock, Day 1
We know it as an iconic "three days of peace and music." Early media reports made it sound like a natural disaster had hit Max Yasgur's farm, and barely mentioned what happened onstage.
5 min
1962: Crusading Against Animal Nudity
G. Clifford Prout Jr., president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, has toured the San Francisco zoo and discovered a shocking amount of animal nudity there. His group is fighting for the nation's morals!
6 min
1961: The Berlin Wall
Germans would come to know it as Barbed Wire Sunday. With a railroad line that bypassed the city complete, East Germany shut down border crossings in Berlin and put up fencing. It was the beginning of what would become the wall.
5 min
1964: Great Train Robber Escapes
Charlie Wilson busts out of Winson Green prison in a caper nearly as sensational as the crime that put him there: The Great Train Robbery of 1963 outside London.
5 min
1934: Alcatraz Opens for Business
The first federal prisoners arrive by train, then barge, under heavy guard, with prison officials lying about them to throw off any pals with escape plans on their mind. Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd will be there soon.
5 min
Corrected—1974: Richard Nixon Resigns
Dear Subscribers: Thanks to a file mixup, you got a preview of tomorrow's episode about Alcatraz instead of the correct one about Nixon's resignation. We're republishing the episode with the correct audio. Sorry about the error! The president lost the support of Republicans in Congress following the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape," which revealed him plotting to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Saying "I have never been a quitter," he quits.
4 min
1974: Richard Nixon Resigns
The president lost the support of Republicans in Congress following the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape," which revealed him plotting to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Saying "I have never been a quitter," he quits.
4 min
1964: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
President Lyndon Johnson applauds Congress for authorizing him to take all necessary steps to defend Southeast Asia against Communist aggression. It's based on a lie.
3 min
1945: Hiroshima
The headlines couldn't have been more stark. The most terrible destructive force ever harnessed by humanity had been unleashed on a Japanese city, with tens of thousands dead.
5 min
1981: Reagan Fires 11,000
Ronald Reagan liked to point out that he was the first president who'd been a union chief, and he'd even led a strike. But when air-traffic controllers went out, he fired them. It was a devastating loss for organized labor.
5 min
1873: The First Cable Car
The story is that Andrew Smith Hallidie, who manufactured "wire rope," saw horses struggling to pull a streetcar uphill. So he had an idea, and this run up Clay Street was its first test.
5 min
1955: L.A.'s First Smog Alert
It wouldn't be the last. People had been donning gas masks in the smoky air for joke photos for a decade, but this was the first official recognition of Los Angeles' signature air pollution.
4 min
1996: Clinton Triangulates
Bill Clinton's central campaign promise in 1992 was to "end welfare as we have come to know it." With Election Day looming, he backs ending cash welfare. A Bay Area congressman calls it a "cave" to the GOP.
5 min
1975: Jimmy Hoffa Disappears
The former Teamsters president was trying to regain control of the union after serving time in prison. He had what was supposed to be a peace conference with a couple of dangerous enemies. He hasn't been seen since.
5 min
1945: Empire State Building Plane Crash
World War II was still being fought in the Pacific, but this wasn't an enemy attack. An American B-25 pilot got disoriented in the fog and slammed into the 79th floor, killing 14. One woman fell from the 80th floor — and lived.
4 min
1984: The Original Psycho Checks Out
Ed Gein barely rated a mention in the obituary column when he died in prison, but the psychotic Wisconsin killer launched a Hollywood genre. Norman Bates, Leatherface and Buffalo Bill were all based on him.
4 min
1997: Critical Mass Goes Critical
Chaos rules the streets of the Financial District as Mayor Willie Brown's attempt to crack down on the monthly freeform bicycle ride backfires in a big way.
4 min
1959: The Kitchen Debate
A grumpy but funny Nikita Khrushchev mixes it up in a model American kitchen in Moscow with a charming — at least on the Nixon scale — Vice President Richard Nixon.
5 min
1976: Chowchilla Suspect Surrenders
Richard Schoenfeld and his two accomplices would eventually be convicted of a kidnapping that shocked the nation: 26 children and their schoolbus driver buried alive. Driver Ed Ray led the kids to safety.
5 min
1916: Preparedness Day Bombing
Two labor leaders are framed for the worst terrorist act in San Francisco history. They spend 23 years in prison for the parade bombing that kills 10 and wounds 40.
6 min
1993: Don't Ask Don't Tell
President Bill Clinton knows you're not going to like the new policy he's announcing on gays in the military. Whoever "you" are. Even the policy's creator didn't think much of it.
4 min
1938: Wrong Way Corrigan Lands in Ireland
Douglas Corrigan takes off for L.A. from Brooklyn, and 28 hours later he lands ... in Dublin! He says he misread his compass and couldn't tell because of the heavy clouds. And if you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn he could sell you.
6 min
1944: Port Chicago Explosion
The disaster at a munitions depot near Martinez kills 320 sailors, most of them African American, and highlights racial inequality in the Navy.
6 min
1969: Apollo 11 Launches
Hundreds of thousands of people crowd the Florida coast to brave traffic jams, parties and the sight of a sweaty Ed McMahon as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit on top of a rocket that hurls them toward the moon.
5 min
1997: Gianni Versace Murdered
A shocking, brazen killing on the front steps of the designer's South Beach mansion. Suspicion quickly falls on one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted — prostitute Andrew Cunanan, already suspected of 4 killings.
5 min
1972: Ho-Hum, 2 More Hijackings
After D.B. Cooper, the thing to do was take over a plane and demand half a million bucks and a parachute. It rarely worked, but it sure got tried a lot during the golden age of hijacking.
5 min
1967: Ballet Superstars Busted
A complaint in the Haight leads to the cops breaking up a hippie pot party. Among those under arrest: Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn. Rudy pouts and tells reporters, "You're all children!"
4 min
1925: The Scopes Monkey Trial
The nation is captivated as Clarence Darrow battles William Jennings Bryan over evolution in a — but very real — trial. "Do you think about things you DO think about?"
6 min
1893: A Medical Moses
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who ran the first African American-owned hospital in the U.S., was sure he'd performed the first successful open-heart surgery. It was actually the second, but he was still a giant.
5 min
1987: Oliver North Testifies
The Reagan administration was trading arms for hostages in the Middle East and supporting right-wing rebels in Nicaragua. North's idea was to put the two together, and that was Iran-Contra.
5 min
Best of NYC: You'll Get No Theme and You'll Lik...
More of our favorite episodes for your longer-form holiday listening, with stories about banana-smoking hippies, Evel Knievel, Randy Shilts and Herb Caen.
42 min
Best of NYC: True Crime!
From the SFPD bunko scandal to the possibly imaginary criminal element of North Beach's topless joints, revisit our favorite law-and-order tales.
24 min
1995: Talking With the Unabomber
"I'm just very fortunate that I'm not dead," UC Berkeley professor Tom Tyler said after receiving a letter from the Unabomber. It was his manifesto, not a mail bomb. And Tyler wrote back.
6 min
1937: Amelia Earhart Disappears
The press called her Lady Lindy. She looked a little like Charles Lindbergh, but she was also a record-seeting flyer in her own right — an aviatrix, they called her. Now, an around-the-world flight almost done, she went missing.
6 min
1946: The A-Bomb at Bikini Atoll
For the first time, the world knows about a nuclear weapon being detonated before it happens. Some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers in the world ... have no idea what they're doing.
5 min
1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand Assassinated
Gavrilo Princip was pouting in a cafe after missing his chance to assassinate the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Then the archduke's driver took a wrong turn down a narrow street — right in front of Princip.
5 min
1997: Climate Change and Humor
Five years after the heady optimism of Rio, the Earth Summit+5 international conference on climate change is a failure. But a confab on humor in Norway is serious business.
5 min
1945: United Nations Charter Signed
As World War II nears its end, Harry Truman announces the dawn of the U.N. in San Francisco. "If we had had this Charter a few years ago," he says, "millions now dead would be alive."
4 min
1876: The Battle of Little Big Horn
They used to call it "Custer's Last Stand," thanks to nearly a century of myth-making. But the real story is it was a great victory, but a last stand, for the Lakota Sioux
6 min
1977: The President Insists on Paying Taxes
President Jimmy Carter owes nothing on his federal income taxes because of deductions and investments in the family business. So he sends a request to the IRS: Please let me pay $6,000.
5 min
1967: Muhammad Ali Appeals
He was undefeated in the ring, but the heavyweight champ was on a losing streak in court. Appealing his conviction for refusing induction into the armed forces, he said there was another possible outcome besides Vietnam or jail: Justice.
5 min
1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Executed
Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Pope Pius XII are among those begging for mercy on their behalf, but the New York couple, convicted of selling secrets to the Soviets, are the first Americans put to death for espionage.
6 min
Republish: 1906: San Francisco Rebuilds
Subscribers got the wrong episode yesterday. The correct episode is now in place, but we’re republishing it here as a “bonus” so you don’t have to re-download it yourself. Two months after the earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco, donations are pouring in from around the country to reopen schools. Dentists are sending tools. The city is digging itself out.
5 min
1906: San Francisco Rebuilds
Two months after the earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco, donations are pouring in from around the country to reopen schools. Dentists are sending tools. The city is digging itself out.
5 min
1992: A Win for Prop 13
Proposition 13, the property tax rollback that forced massive government cuts and launched the taxpayer revolt of the '80s, is upheld by the Supreme Court, confirming it as California's political third rail.
5 min
1976: Selling off the Oakland A's
All owner Charlie Finley wants to do is get something for his star players who are about to become this new thing, free agents. But commissioner Bowie Kuhn says that kind of deal — now common — is "not in the best interests of baseball."
5 min
1996: Herb Caen Day in San Francisco
Robin Williams, Willie Mays, Bill Walsh and Amy Tan are among the throngs celebrating the city's "voice and conscience" — in the words of his Pulitzer Prize — in a downtown celebration. "God, I love this town," he said. It was mutual.
6 min
1983: Drug and Alcohol Crowd at the White House!
That's what Interior Secretary James Watt called the audience for the Beach Boys when he banned them from a July Fourth concert at the National Mall. But whoops: The Reagans dug the nostalgia act.
5 min
1923: Why Not a Businessman President?
Does this sound familiar? A rich guy who owns a famous company that's popular with consumers talks about running for president. Grab a cup of coffee and listen to the story of ... Henry Ford.
6 min
1971: Alcatraz Captured
A 19-month occupation by American Indian activists ends when U.S. marshals take back Alcatraz Island. The protest action has a huge influence on U.S. policy toward native tribes.
5 min
1946: Death of a Champion
Jack Johnson was the Jackie Robinson of boxing. He broke the color barrier as the first black man to fight for the heavyweight title, and the first to win it. He died while traveling to see the second black champ, Joe Louis.
7 min
1992: Say Goodbye to the Giants
The local 9 lose again at the ballot box in their attempt to get a new publicly funded stadium. They're 0-for-4. They're never going to get a new ballpark, are they?
6 min
1944: D-Day by the Bay
As Allied troops storm the beaches of Normandy, a Chronicle reporter patrols the city. He finds a subdued reaction, with scattered rejoicing in the immigrant-heavy produce market and at the French consulate.
5 min
1972: Angela Davis Acquitted
"Wild Scene in the Courtroom." The former UCLA professor had been charged with supplying the guns in a 1970 courtroom takeover that left a judge and three others dead.
6 min
1986: Crisis at the Mexican Border
The Reagan administration says it's going to get tough and crack down. "The drug trafficking and related violence along the border is a horror story," says one official. Sound familiar?
5 min
1913: The Last Horsecar in San Francisco
Mayor Sunny Jim Rolph grabs the reins and drives old Car 45 on its last Market Street run. Horse-drawn streetcars are going the way of, well, horse-drawn streetcars.
4 min
1964: The Rolling Stones Invade America
First the Beatles and now these guys. The Chronicle wants to know: When will this British Invasion end? At least they're just bringing music from England, not the battles between gangs of Mods and Rockers.
5 min
1911: The First Indy 500
It wasn't just the first Indianapolis 500, it was the first 500-mile race, period. The winner was the only solo driver. Ray Haroun didn't need someone to help watch out for other cars. He used his new invention: A rearview mirror.
6 min
1987: The GMO Food War Begins
Activists resort to vandalism to block the University of California from field testing Ice-Minus, the first experiment with genetically modified crops outside a lab.
4 min
1975: Evel Knievel Is Through!
The Most Important Man in the World — at least according to the 11-year-old future host of Not Your Century and his bike-jumping friends — says he's retiring after his latest crash, at Wembley Stadium in London.
8 min
1943: Inside a Japanese Internment Camp
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Milton Silverman tours the camp at Tulelake. Though the camps enjoy overwhelming popular support at the time, his report is surprisingly frank.
7 min
1967: Sex is Everywhere
With the sexual revolution in full swing, a study says it's having an effect on the mental health of young women. In San Francisco, the obscenity trial over Lenore Kandel's erotic poetry collection "The Love Book" continues.
5 min
1956: The Destruction of the Fillmore
The Board of Supervisors approves a plan that will devastate the African-American community of the Fillmore, "the Harlem of the West." It's urban renewal, which James Baldwin says "means moving the Negroes out. It means Negro removal."
6 min
1910: The King Is Dead
He wasn't king long, but Edward VII had a whole era named after him. His mother, Queen Victoria, blamed him for the death of his father and never forgave him. But other people liked him. Especially the ladies.
5 min
1999: Dan Quayle in San Franciscoe
The former VP, running for president, returns to the scene of his "Murphy Brown" comment, for which he was roasted—but not like he was roasted for spelling potato "potatoe."
5 min
1954: Brown vs. Board of Education
The Supreme Court delivers a death sentence for the doctrine of separate but equal, the basis for legal segregation. It's an epochal decision, but not the top headline in the newspaper.
4 min
1967: Undercover With the Hippies
A Chronicle reporter spends a month in Haight-Ashbury, living with the flower children, getting high with them and trying to understand their culture of peace, love and psychedelic bananas you heard us psychedelic bananas.
6 min
1960: San Francisco Protests HUAC
The anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee is holding hearings at S.F. City Hall, and protesters — chanting, singing and comparing the committee to Nazis — are brutalized by police.
5 min
1932: Who Killed the Lindbergh Baby?
The search for the missing Charles Lindbergh Jr. had gripped the nation. Now that the 2-year-old has been found dead, the great aviator has recruited some sketchy characters to help find the killer.
6 min
1982: Randy Shilts and the Dawn of AIDS
The headline about what would become the AIDS epidemic was buried on Page 6. It was the first story on the disease by the man who would become its voice: Randy Shilts. A special longform edition of Not Your Century.
19 min
Bonus: Randy Shilts Biographer Andrew E. Stoner
Host King Kaufman interviews Andrew E. Stoner, the author of “The Journalist of Castro Street: The Life of Randy Shilts,” which is out this month.
23 min
1869: The Golden Spike
The transcontinental railroad is completed by the driving of the final spike. It's hooked up to telegraph wires, so Leland Stanford's hammer blow sends a nationwide signal for the celebrations to begin. It's the first mass media event.
6 min
1959: Great White Shark Attack
San Francisco teenager Albert Kogler is killed by a "maneater" while swimming in the bay. Shirley O'Neil braves the shark's attack to pull him from the water, then becomes an international sensation when she baptizes her dying friend on shore.
6 min
1965: A Surrender to the Fleshpots of North Beach
San Francisco Mayor John F. Shelley has given in. Not to the temptations of the flesh, but to the idea that topless entertainment is here to stay in North Beach.
5 min
1942: Japan Routs the U.S. at Corregidor
The last allied stronghold in Southeast Asia falls. General Douglas MacArthur had hoped to hold out for reinfocements, but they never came. Still, the battle had slowed Japan's drive to conquer the Pacific, and the tide would soon turn.
4 min
1970: The Kent State Shooting
President Nixon reverses course and escalates the Vietnam War by invading formerly neutral Cambodia, and America's college campuses erupt in protest. In Ohio, National Guardsmen open fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing four.
5 min