Mossback

The official podcast companion to Mossback’s Northwest, a video series about Pacific Northwest history from Cascade PBS. Mossback features stories that were left on the cutting room floor, along with critical analysis from co-host Knute Berger. Hosted by Knute Berger and Stephen Hegg

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Episodes

6 days ago

Minoru Yamasaki was among the most influential architects of the 20th century. Knute Berger tells the story.
Minoru Yamasaki was born in Seattle in 1912, studied architecture at the University of Washington and went on to design some of the most celebrated buildings of the 20th century. Among them: the World Trade Center in New York and the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.   
Yamasaki aimed to do something that few were doing at the time. He subverted the bare, minimalist and sometimes brutalist trends of mid-century modern buildings with fine details that evoked elegance and beauty. 
Cascade PBS’s resident historian Knute Berger explored Yamasaki’s career and legacy in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s much more left to discuss.  
In this episode of Mossback, co-host Stephen Hegg joins Berger to hear more about Yamasaki’s early life experiences and how they influenced his work; his approach to architecture and how it differed from the prevailing cultural winds of the time; and the process of creating his most acclaimed buildings and the blistering critiques they sometimes received. Plus, Berger and Hegg take a field trip to Rainier Tower, a striking Seattle skyscraper and one of Yamasaki’s most controversial designs. 
For more on all things Mossback, visit CascadePBS.org. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@cascadepbs.org. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Cascade PBS member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Sara Bernard
Story editor: Sarah Menzies

Friday May 10, 2024

Environmental activist Polly Dyer teamed up with Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in the 1950s to keep a stretch of Washington wild.
Today, more than 73 miles of Washington’s rugged Olympic Coast is still rugged. It’s accessible only to hikers, not cars. Part of the reason for that is a famous 1958 beach hike led by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice – and Washington resident – William O. Douglas. 
The three-day hike, co-organized by environmental advocate Polly Dyer, was designed to protest a proposed coastal highway that would have transformed the region forever. A filmmaker tagged along with the roughly 70 participants, and thanks in part to the efforts of the Oregon Historical Society, the film is now restored, digitized and available for anyone to watch on YouTube.   
Cascade PBS’s resident historian Knute Berger detailed this chapter of Pacific Northwest history in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s more left to explore. 
In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss his early admiration for Justice Douglas and the fan letter he sent him back in 1970; Douglas’ famed legacy as an advocate for wilderness conservation; the less-publicized, but just as crucial, role Polly Dyer played in preserving wilderness in Washington and across the country; and the fact that the 1958 hike was not the only protest hike like it.  
For more on all things Mossback, visit CascadePBS.org. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@cascadepbs.org. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Cascade PBS member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Sara Bernard
Story editor: Sarah Menzies

Friday May 03, 2024

Audiences loved Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, but what he sold as “authentic” was anything but. Knute Berger shares how the myth shaped our idea of the frontier.
You’ve probably heard of Buffalo Bill. The name is nearly synonymous with “the Wild West,” a kind of cultural mythology created as white settlers colonized the American West in the late 19th century. 
Although he’s now larger than life, Buffalo Bill was, in fact, a real person who hunted buffalo, scouted for the U.S. Army and developed a wildly popular traveling show of sharpshooters, cowboys and other “rough riders.” It was a beloved pageant that catapulted him into global fame. In 1908, Buffalo Bill’s show arrived in Seattle.  
Cascade PBS’s resident historian Knute Berger explored all of this in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s much more left to discuss.  
In this episode of Mossback, co-host Stephen Hegg joins Berger to more deeply understand who Buffalo Bill really was; unpack the genesis of his traveling show and what it meant to audiences everywhere; dig up firsthand accounts of his Seattle shows as well as that of copycat “Cheyenne Bill”; and interrogate the colonialist narrative that Bill and his supporters perpetuated and that still exists today.    
For more on all things Mossback, visit CascadePBS.org. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@cascadepbs.org. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Cascade PBS member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Sara Bernard
Story editor: Sarah Menzies

Friday Apr 26, 2024

Folk songs, clam bakes, aquaculture and more: Knute Berger explores the myriad ways clams have shaped our region’s culture.
Clams are among the Pacific Northwest’s most vital natural resources. From thousands of years of aquaculture to folk songs and university mascots, the celebration and consumption of clams permeates local food and culture.  
Cascade PBS’ resident historian Knute Berger dug up some of these stories in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s more left to uncover. 
In this episode of Mossback, Berger and co-host Stephen Hegg discuss their own experiences digging for clams on the Washington coast; Indigenous knowledge and early settlers’ experiences with (and reliance on) clams; the lasting impact of Seattle restaurateur Ivar Haglund; and the strange but mighty geoduck.  
Plus, they take a field trip to Ivar’s Acres of Clams on the Seattle waterfront to eat clam chowder, drink clam nectar and do battle with seagulls.  
For more on all things Mossback, visit CascadePBS.org. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@cascadepbs.org. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Cascade PBS member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Sara Bernard
Story editor: Sarah Menzies

Friday Apr 12, 2024

Boeing's Plant 2 was so crucial that the military asked Hollywood to hide it from the enemy. Knute Berger shares the story.
From the moment the United States entered World War II, Seattle was vital to the war effort. Boeing’s Plant 2 was a key manufacturing hub for thousands of B-17 bombers, one of the Allies’ most important tools in Europe.  
Fearing the consequences of a military attack on the facility, the U.S. Army hired a Hollywood set designer to help make its roof look – at least from the air – like just another suburban neighborhood.  
Cascade PBS’ resident historian Knute Berger explored this historic feat of camouflage in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s much more to the story.  
In this episode of Mossback, Berger and co-host Stephen Hegg dig into why the U.S. military went to such great lengths to hide the Boeing plant in the first place; John Stewart Detlie’s little-known legacy in Seattle; Detlie’s gossip-strewn relationship with actress Veronica Lake; and what all of this tells us about the war’s lasting impact on the Pacific Northwest. 
For more on all things Mossback, visit CascadePBS.org. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@cascadepbs.org. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Cascade PBS member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Sara Bernard
Story editor: Sarah Menzies

Friday Apr 05, 2024

Back-to-back disasters in Washington and B.C. killed more than 150 people in 1910. Knute Berger digs into the traumatic circumstances and their fallout.
In the stormy winter of 1910, an avalanche struck two stalled trains in Wellington, a railroad outpost in Washington’s Central Cascades. Three days later, another one blanketed dozens of rail workers in the Canadian Selkirks. 
Both events remain the deadliest avalanches in North American history – and both are connected to the rapid expansion and unrivaled power of the railroads in the early 20th century.   
Cascade PBS’ resident historian Knute Berger unpacked these twin disasters in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s much more left to explore. 
In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss the details of what happened and the impact this trauma had on the region; the labor disputes and power imbalances circling the tragedy; and what accountability looked like at the time. Plus, they go behind the scenes of the Mossback’s Northwest video shoot to share what the train cars and snowplows of the era would have been like – and visit the Seattle cemetery where some Wellington victims are still buried. 
For more on all things Mossback, visit CascadePBS.org. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@cascadepbs.org. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Cascade PBS member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Sara Bernard
Story editor: Sarah Menzies

Friday Nov 24, 2023

Crater Lake wasn’t always a lake. Knute Berger tells the story of when a blast 50 times the size of Mt St. Helens' blanketed the PNW in ash.
Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon is known for its crown jewel: a brilliantly blue and very deep alpine lake. But some 8,000 years ago, this lake was a mountain. 
Then the mountain erupted, blowing its top and layering ash so far afield that it impacted wildlife in Canada. Indigenous people carry oral traditions that share what it was like to witness the blast. 
Crosscut’s resident historian Knute Berger unearthed this history in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there is more left to uncover. 
In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to more deeply understand the geologic history of the blast and the cultural history of what eventually became known as Mount Mazama. They also discuss the chance of this or any other volcano in the Pacific Northwest blowing again — and what impact that could have on all of us. 
For more on all things Mossback, visit crosscut.com/mossback. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@crosscut.com. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Crosscut member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Seth Halleran
Story editors: Sara Bernard and Sarah Menzies

Friday Nov 17, 2023

Asahel Curtis shot thousands of images in the early 20th century. Knute Berger talks about the effort to share them with the public for the first time.
Asahel Curtis, the renowned Pacific Northwest photographer, was amazingly prolific. He documented regional life for 50 years, from the 1890s to the 1940s. Crosscut’s resident historian Knute Berger explored Curtis’ work and legacy in Season 5 of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but that legacy now has a new chapter. 
As Berger detailed in a more recent episode of Mossback’s Northwest, he’s revisiting Curtis’ story thanks to a new project that aims to digitize the approximately 60,000 glass plate and nitrate negatives that make up the photographer’s massive archive.  
The Washington State Historical Society will spend the next few years painstakingly scanning each one. The goal is not only to preserve the history the images contain, but also to share them — for free — with the public.  
In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss the digitization project and all it entails, as well as a handful of remarkable photographs the process has turned up already. Plus, they dig into the philosophical aspects of photography in an increasingly online, AI-driven world, where notions of fact and reality can seem elusive. 
For more on all things Mossback, visit crosscut.com/mossback. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@crosscut.com. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Crosscut member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Seth Halleran
Story editors: Sara Bernard and Sarah Menzies

Friday Nov 10, 2023

Catherine Montgomery spearheaded a movement to preserve old growth in Washington forests. Knute Berger shares her story.
In the early 1900s in Washington, women couldn’t yet vote, but many formed powerful civic groups to advocate for everything from prison reform to forest preservation.  
One woman stands out: the mountaineer, teacher, activist and suffragist Catherine Montgomery. Her advocacy helped support women’s empowerment, protect wilderness and old growth trees, and even plant the first seed for what would later become the Pacific Crest Trail.  
Crosscut’s resident historian Knute Berger introduced us to Catherine Montgomery’s legacy in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there is more left to explore.  
In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to paint a picture of Montgomery’s life, the political and social context of her time, and the tough work Montgomery and many other women undertook in that era to advocate for forests and other social causes in the face of rapid development. Plus, we hear what it’s like to visit the little-known park she helped create. 
For more on all things Mossback, visit crosscut.com/mossback. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@crosscut.com. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Crosscut member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Seth Halleran
Story editors: Sara Bernard and Sarah Menzies
 

Friday Nov 03, 2023

In 1915, Germany wanted to keep the United States from joining World War I. Knute Berger explains how the fight came to the Northwest.
In the years leading up to World War I, Germany and its sympathizers tried to prevent the United States from entering the conflict. An intricate network of spies and saboteurs attempted to sway public opinion as well as interrupt shipments of war materiel at U.S. ports.
Seattle was not immune to these forces. In the wee hours of May 30, 1915, a scow packed with dynamite near Harbor Island lit up the skies. The blast marked the beginning of an era of anti-German sentiment; the Espionage Act; and, of course, the U.S.’s eventual involvement in both world wars. 
Crosscut’s resident historian Knute Berger blew open this history in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there is much more to the story.
In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss the murky details of this gigantic explosion in Seattle, the geopolitical context surrounding it, similar efforts by German saboteurs across the U.S. at that time, and the way these pre-war histories are remembered—and forgotten.
For more on all things Mossback, visit crosscut.com/mossback. To reach Knute Berger directly, drop him a line at knute.berger@crosscut.com. And if you’d like an exclusive weekly newsletter from Knute, where he offers greater insight into his latest historical discoveries, become a Crosscut member today.
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Credits
Hosts: Stephen Hegg, Knute Berger
Producer: Seth Halleran
Story editors: Sara Bernard and Sarah Menzies
 

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Into the Deep Moss 

For years, Knute Berger has shared his unique view of Pacific Northwest history through his Mossback’s Northwest video series. Now, fans can go deeper into the moss through this weekly podcast. Hosted by Sara Bernard (This Changes Everything), each episode of this series will feature an interview with Berger about one episode of the video series. The podcasts will provide stories and factoids that were left on the cutting room floor, along with critical analysis from Berger and a greater context that will stitch each topic into the long, storied history of the Pacific Northwest.

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