1872 in 2024: New podcast mimics Ohio life in 19th century

‘It’s incredibly rewarding to take this story and find another way to connect it to audiences.’



Ohio playwright Michael London’s award-winning 2007 novel “Dearest” has been revitalized as a fiction podcast set to debut today, April 24.

Set in 1872, the story concerns a Marietta milliner and a Pittsburgh engineer who have a chance meeting on a riverboat traveling up the Ohio River. Over the next year, the two exchange letters. Romance, mystery and a rich regional history fills their correspondence, which leads to an unexpected and life-changing future for both.

Each episode of the podcast is an individual letter in their correspondence and the release schedule will give the listener the real-time experience of postal communication in the 1870s. Letters took a week or more to arrive at their destination, while others arrived on the same day. This experience is replicated within the podcast itself. Each episode/letter will arrive on the date of the original letter in the early 1870s. For instance, the first episode/letter of the series, dated April 24, 1872 will find its release on April 24, 2024.



“As we want to understand who we are today, there are times when it’s valuable to understand who we were,” London said. “Stories like this, which are told in this particular way, allow for us to sort of experience a time capsule in how people think, what they say and how they express themselves. I’m always interested in how people tell stories and how stories are conveyed, so this is an attempt to combine the concept of literature, about reading a story, and also what it’s like to experience a story when someone tells it to you. This is why the entire story is told through letters, artifacts and newspaper articles from that period.”

In addition to playwrighting, London is an author and serves as director of the Ohio Playwrights Circle. He is also the Ohio Regional Representative for the Dramatists Guild of America. In 2022, he received an Individual Artist Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2023 he was the recipient of the Ohio Governor’s Award in the Arts.

For the podcast, London partnered with George Drake Jr., a radio and audio producer originally from Chicago. Drake has also served as producer of the Dayton mystery podcast “Fifth & Ludlow,” and the Katharine Wright history podcast “In Her Own Wright.” They met at a WYSO podcasting class a few years ago and are excited to finally have their collaboration available for the public.

“Michael first combined theater and literature, and with this podcast we are combining cultures,” Drake explained. “The episodes will be published immediately. However, we are spacing them out to combine the culture of 1872 Ohio. Each episode will be published on the date on the top of each letter. It’s going to be a few weeks or a few days between letters and you don’t know when it’s coming.”



The duration of the series is expected to be around 100 episodes over the course of 12 months. Drake is hopeful there will be great interest in the project in spite of its unique format which strays from a typical podcast timeline.

“No one has done anything like this,” he said. “The name of the game in podcasting is consistency. Podcasts are daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Our intentionally inconsistent basis of publication really resonated with me. It’s a breath of fresh air in the podcasting industry. This is truly a passion project for both of us. We’re making it because we really love this story and really love this method of telling it. We think people will find it impactful.”

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

“It replicates an experience from the time,” London said. “In 1872, if you were talking to somebody who didn’t live next to you, it was through a letter. You had to wait five days, a week or even two weeks depending on the weather. To hear a story that’s set in that time frame, and you’re connecting to the time frame, you’ll get the experience of what it means to be communicating with somebody simply because we’re authentically dropping them in the same time frame.”

London received a 2024 Artist Opportunity Grant to make the podcast, funded by the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District and administered by Culture Works. He is grateful for the financial support.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to take this story and find another way to connect it to audiences,” he said. “It feels great to have that support and acknowledgement.”

The Ohio-connected actors voicing the characters in the podcast include Darren Brown, Christine Brunner, Brittany Sue Hines and Tony Award nominee Micah Stock. Original music is provided by Mustafa Shaheen, who also wrote music for Drake’s aforementioned podcast “Fifth & Ludlow.”

London says establishing connection and a greater understanding through history is paramount in this endeavor.

“If we know who we were, and we’re honest about who we have been, it helps us know ourselves better,” London said. “This is a story of Ohio that takes place along the Ohio River. If we can be honest about who we’ve been, we can be closer to understanding ourselves better today.”

Podcast listeners can subscribe to the podcast and hear the trailer at bit.ly/dearesttrailer. They can also sign up for the newsletter to never miss an episode at bit.ly/dearestpost, and follow the podcast on Facebook at @dearestpodcast.

To learn more about London and see the original version of “Dearest,” visit michaelmlondon.com.

To learn more about Drake and his prior work, visit georgedrakejr.com.

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