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CHRONOLOGICAL: 1624 - 1865:

1624  |   1826  |   1847  |   1854

Stephen Foster

Stephen Foster (1826-1864)
The life and times of America's first great songwriter.
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Stephen Foster was the first great American songwriter. His melodies are so much a part of American history and culture that most people think they're folk tunes. All in all he composed some 200 songs, including "Oh! Susanna" "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," and "Camptown Races." Though he virtually invented popular music as we recognize it today, Foster's personal life was tragic and contradiction-riddled. His marriage was largely unhappy, he never made much money from his work and he died at the age of 37 a nearly penniless alcoholic on the Bowery in New York.

Sins of Our Mothers (1829-1900)
(no website available)
A Gothic tale of sin and redemption in 19th century New England.
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A Gothic tale of sin and redemption in 19th century New England. A small town in Maine reacts to the unconventional behavior of one of its young residents, a woman named Emeline Gurney. A fascinating examination of small town mores.
Las Vegas: An Unconventional History

Las Vegas: An Unconventional History (1829-2005)
A distinctly American saga of optimism and opportunity.
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The story of Las Vegas' last hundred years is a distinctly American saga of optimism and opportunity. By 1999, it had become one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and could lay claim, in the words of one historian, to be "the first city of the twenty-first century."

American Experience tells a rollercoaster story, peopled with unlikely heroes and villains, to trace the city's development from a remote frontier way-station to its Depression-era incarnation as the "Gateway to the Hoover Dam"; from its mid-century florescence as the gangster metropolis known as "Sin City" to its recent renaissance as a corporately-financed, postmodern, desert fantasyland.

Hearts and Hands (1830-1870)
(no website available)
Quilting and the intimate clues it yields about the lives of 19th century women.
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The design and art of quilting yields intimate clues about the lives of 19th century women, who stitched their personal and political stories into these artifacts of history.

Views of a Vanishing Frontier (1832-1834)
(no website available)
The journey of Prince Maximilian, German naturalist, and artist Karl Bodmer, who explored the Mississippi River area from 1832-34.
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The journey of Prince Maximilian, German naturalist, and artist Karl Bodmer, who explored the Mississippi River area from 1832-34, meticulously documenting in paintings and journals the landscape, plants and life of Native Americans.
The Great Transatlantic Cable

The Great Transatlantic Cable (1838-1902)
The laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable -- an underwater communications link between North America and Europe -- is a remarkable story of mid-19th century ingenuity and perseverance.
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This American Experience production tells the remarkable story behind the laying of the transatlantic cable. By the middle of the 19th century, a network of telegraph poles strung across America had changed the way the country did business. Samuel Morse's invention made possible almost instantaneous communication between cities across the continent. Communicating with Europe was another matter. Messages to London were sent the old-fashioned way, aboard sailing ships that could take weeks to reach their destination.

Though the need for a transatlantic cable was obvious, the physical challenges to laying one were enormous. The project would require the production of a 2,000 mile long cable that would have to be laid three miles beneath the Atlantic. Cyrus Field, an energetic, young New York paper manufacturer, wasn't deterred. And once he started the endeavor, he wouldn't give up. It took twelve years of cajoling and massaging investors, several abortive attempts to lay the cable, and millions of wasted dollars before Field and his team of engineers finally succeeded. On July 27, 1866, when the wire was finally in place, Field sent back the first message to Europe: "Thank God," he wrote, "the Cable is Laid." Since that day, almost 140 years ago, nothing has broken his communications link with Europe -- not storms, earthquakes or world wars.

The Rockefellers

The Rockefellers (1839-1979)
No American family was as powerful, as admired -- or as hated.
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Few families in America have been as powerful, as admired, or as hated as the Rockefellers. And no family has been as rich. Over the course of more than a century, they exerted an unparalleled influence over nearly every aspect of American life, from business and government to art and education. The saga of four generations of a remarkable family.
Transcontinental Railroad

Transcontinental Railroad (1845-1889)
Ingenious entrepreneurs, brilliant engineers, armies of workers, and Native Americans figure in the remarkable story of how a railroad was built connecting California to the East.
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On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah, a boisterous crowd gathered to witness the completion of one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century: the building of the transcontinental railroad. The electrifying moment -- the realization of a dream first pursued by a farsighted and determined engineer decades earlier -- marked the culmination of six years of grueling work. Peopled by the ingenious entrepreneurs whose unscrupulous financing got the line laid, the brilliant engineers who charted the railroad's course and hurdled the geological obstacles in its way, the armies of workers who labored relentlessly on the enterprise, and the Native Americans whose lives were destroyed in its wake, Transcontinental Railroad is a remarkable story of greed, innovation and gritty determination. It reveals both why the railroad was built and how it would shape the nation, while shedding light on the politics and culture of mid-nineteenth century America.

The Way West (1845-1893)
(no website available)
How the West was lost and won, from the Gold Rush in 1848 until the end of the Indian Wars at Wounded Knee in 1893.
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A six-hour documentary of how the West was lost and won, from the time of the Gold Rush in 1848 until after the last gasp of the Indian Wars at Wounded Knee in 1893, when the West was settled, subdued, exploited and incorporated into the American empire. Lakotas, Cheyennes, Kiowas, Poncas, Apaches, Nez Perces and Utes fought back, then watched as everything they had was taken from them, their way of life all but destroyed.
The Donner Party

The Donner Party (1846)
A haunting story of westward expansion.
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Of all the 19th century pioneer stories, none exerts so powerful a hold on the American imagination as this, during the worst winter ever recorded in the High Sierras. In June, 1846, 87 men, women and children began their legendary 2,000 mile journey from Illinois to California. They packed huge wagons, took food, hired servants. When family leaders made the fateful decision to take an untried short cut to beat the coming winter, only half would come out alive.
The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush (1846-1860)
Told though the stories of a small group of diverse characters-Chinese and Chilean, Northerner and Southerner, black and white-this two-hour AMERICAN EXPERIENCE tracks the evolution of the Gold Rush from the easy riches of the first few months to the fier
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On January 28, 1848, James Marshall found gold near the fork of the American and Sacramento Rivers, and unleashed a massive migration from around the world to what had been a forgotten backwater. With head-spinning speed, these gold-seekers created one of the most extraordinary societies in history-hard-driving, overwhelmingly male, often brutal. The Gold Rush was a remarkably international event; in short order, gold-seekers from Oregon and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Mexico, Chile, England, France, Australia, Ireland, and China were soon knee-deep in water in the diggings. Each found themselves playing the Great California Lottery, in which luck not hard work or honesty, seemed the key to success. Told though the stories of a small group of diverse characters-Chinese and Chilean, Northerner and Southerner, black and white-this two-hour AMERICAN EXPERIENCE tracks the evolution of the Gold Rush from the easy riches of the first few months to the fierce competition for a few good claims. It shows that as the diggings became oppressively crowded, Americans drove foreigners from the mines. And it explores how in the end, the big money was made, not by men with shovels, but by large investments in expensive hydraulic equipment. Nonetheless, in the hurly burly of the intervening years, the Gold Rush turned California into a place synonymous with risk, riches, and reinvention, a place where the impossible seemed likely.
Buffalo Bill

Buffalo Bill (1846-1917)
Just as the American frontier was disappearing, "Buffalo Bill" Cody transformed himself into a master showman, creating a world-famous traveling show that brought the "real" Wild West to life.
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William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's legendary exploits helped create the myth of the American West that still endures today. Born in an Iowa log cabin in 1846, he fought Indians, worked as a Pony Express rider, and earned his nickname while hunting buffalo to feed the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. After the Civil War he scouted for the U.S. Army along America's vast western frontier. In 1883, just as that frontier was disappearing, he transformed himself into a master showman, creating and starring in a world-famous traveling show that brought the "real" Wild West to life. Part circus, part history, Buffalo Bill's Wild West toured for three decades, playing to enthusiastic crowds across the United States and Europe.
CHRONOLOGICAL: 1624 - 1865:

1624  |   1826  |   1847  |   1854

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