The Film & More|
A film by David Grubin Productions, Inc.
Produced and directed by David Grubin
Written by Judy Crichton and David Grubin
Spirit of the Age (45 minutes)
On New Year's Day 1900, President William McKinley and his wife, Ida, greet
thousands of visitors at the traditional New Year's Day reception at the White
House--despite the First Lady's failing health, and the recent assassinations
of Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the President of France. American
newspapers trumpet tales of horror half a globe away in the Philippines, where
the United States is embroiled in a guerrilla war. McKinley fears his chances
in the November election hinge on the outcome of a war he does not know how to
In San Francisco, John Muir, a Scottish immigrant who considers nature sacred,
warns Americans about the environmental price of progress. Already much of the
nation's virgin forest has been cut, and the buffalo driven to extinction. Muir
finds hope in the vast beauty of America, and in a new craze for hiking and
mountaineering that is sweeping the country.
Americans are dazzled by the onrush of new inventions: motion pictures,
x-rays, automobiles, phonographs, the electric light, indoor plumbing.
Illustrator Charles Dana Gibson sets the standard for idealized womanhood with
his "Gibson Girl," while an ambitious photographer, Frances Benjamin Johnston,
pioneers a new career for women in photojournalism. Johnston travels across the
country, documenting the people of her day: coal miners, sailors, immigrants,
sharecroppers, politicians, factory workers, scientists, war heroes, authors,
Change Is In the Air (30 minutes)
In New York City, the entertainment capital of America, a Broadway play about a
seductive woman with many lovers provokes a debate about public morality. Yet a
police inspector who sees Sapho six times "in the line of duty" claims that he
finds it not at all offensive. When its star and director, Olga Nethersole, is
arrested and charged with violating public decency, her trial becomes a
The year 1900 sees a huge wave of immigrants--over a half-million
people--arriving in the United States. With nearly three million residents,
almost one-third of them foreign-born, New York is America's largest city--and
the second largest in the world. Seeking to escape the poverty and squalor of
the city's tenements, millions head West to work in Pennsylvania's coal fields,
Pittsburgh's steel mills, Chicago's stockyards.
On the morning of May 1, a violent underground explosion kills more than two
hundred coal miners in Scofield, Utah. Vowing to "remember Scofield," miners
band together to form a union.
A Great Civilized Power (50 minutes)
A national census taken in the summer of 1900 counts more than 76 million
Americans--including four thousand millionaires. There are only eight thousand
cars and less than ten miles of concrete roads, but there is no income tax.
Vacations are a new part of American life. Trains filled with Northerners head
south in wintertime, and huge trans-Atlantic steamers carry thousands of
Americans to the Paris Exposition, where several exhibits tout the racial
superiority of white colonial powers.
Nowhere is the issue of race more explosive than in the South, home to nine
out of ten black Americans. Denied freedoms other citizens take for
granted--including the right to vote--blacks have seen gains realized after the
Civil War stripped away by poll taxes, literacy tests, even lynching.
Representative George White of North Carolina--the only black US
congressman--attempts to make lynching a federal crime, without success.
A rift opens between black leaders Booker T. Washington, who calls for a focus
on economic development, and W. E. B. Du Bois, who advocates greater political
power for African Americans.
Scott Joplin, a young composer from Missouri, popularizes a new musical style
called ragtime. Copies of his "Maple Leaf Rag" fly off the shelves of
five-and-dime stores across the country, as a new industry--the music
In June, at the Republican Party Convention in Philadelphia, delegates cheer
as war hero Theodore Roosevelt is nominated as McKinley's running mate. But a
new foreign policy crisis threatens McKinley's hopes for reelection.
Among the thousands of Western missionaries spreading the gospel in China are
Eva and Charles Price of Iowa, who have been running a school three hundred
miles south of Peking for more than a decade. In the summer of 1900, a Chinese
sect known as the Boxers calls for the extermination of foreigners and begins
attacking missionaries. When McKinley sends American troops into China, William
Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate for president, labels him an
In August, Peking is liberated and the captives freed. But Chinese soldiers
sent to escort the Price family to Peking suddenly attack them. Eva, Charles,
and their seven-year-old daughter Florence are hacked to death, and their
bodies thrown into a ditch.
Fall, Anything Seemed Possible (45 minutes )
The presidential campaign heats up as Democratic candidate William Jennings
Bryan blasts McKinley first for his foreign policy, then for his alliance with
the trusts--giant corporations that were squeezing competition, depressing
wages, and manipulating prices. The Republicans counter with their rallying cry
In early September, the most destructive hurricane in the nation's history
devastates Galveston, Texas, a popular tourist town perched on a slim spit of
sand along the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly half the homes in the city are swept
away, leaving more than six thousand people dead and twenty thousand homeless.
Clara Barton and the Red Cross arrive in a city "lifeless and bloomless,
streets choked with debris and corpses" to care for the survivors.
In Pennsylvania, the president of the United Mine Workers, thirty-year-old
John Mitchell, calls for a strike against the mightiest monopoly in America: a
group of wealthy coal operators controlled by America's most powerful
financier, J. Pierpont Morgan. On September 17, Mitchell's coal miners walk
out, demanding recognition of their union and a living wage. As the strike
drags on into October, more than ninety percent of the state's mines are
closed, leaving mills, factories, and homes across the country low on coal. But
with miners suffering more than anyone, Mitchell accepts a compromise offer
from the owners, and his men return to work.
As 1900 draws to a close, stories of change continue to herald a new era. In
Boston, the last horse-drawn trolley is replaced by an electric bus; the first
overseas telephone call is made between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba;
scientists announce they are searching for messages from Mars. Newspapers and
magazines predict marvelous things for the next hundred years: great air-ships
would fly across the seas, wireless telephones would span the world, people
would watch moving images in their own homes. There were even predictions that
the twentieth century would see an end to poverty and war. Anything seemed