Smoke and Mirrors

On today’s show we track the evolution of smog from symbol of industrial progress to public-health catastrophe.

Episode 157 | October 1, 2012

Episode 157: Smoke and Mirrors by Distillations Podcast

Smog is a thick, smoky kind of air pollution that can pose serious threats to human health. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time smog was looked on as a sign of progress—visual proof that the gears of industry were churning for a more prosperous future. On today’s episode we chart the utter destruction of smog’s good reputation. First, Distillations’ executive producer Jennifer Dionisio learns the history of a painting in CHF’s museum that features a landscape of smokestacks cast in an admiring light. Then Daniel Tkacik and Ellis Robinson, producers of the podcast I Wonder..., travel to a small town in Pennsylvania with a dark past, thanks to a deadly smog that strangled the town in 1948.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:39 Introduction
01:23 Interview: A Sign of Progress
05:08 Donora
14:16 Closing Credits


Special thanks to Daniel Tkacik, Ellis Robinson, and Jacqueline Boytim for researching this show. 

For more information on the deadly smog outbreak of 1948 visit the Donora Smog Museum’s website.Our theme music is composed by Andrew Chalfen. Music from the Free Music Archive includes “Train’s Gone,” by et, and “Katherine Young—Inhabitation of Time,” by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn. Music from BMI includes “Burning Kingdom,” by Smog, and “Fall On Me,” by R.E.M. 

Arthur Henry Knighton’s Caustic Pot House Stacks, “A” Power Stack, “A” Pump Station, and “A” Evaporator Building. Image courtesy of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.