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.

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.
6 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.
4 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