Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Some stories can't just be told. They must be experienced. Main Navigation Teachers
THEMATIC: Technology:

American Business/Labor  |   Aviation  |   History of Medicine  |   Innovations

After the Crash (no website available)
The most desperate year of the Great Depression -- 1932.
More Information

1932 -- the most desperate year of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate was 23.6%. Twenty thousand WWI veterans and their families marched towards Washington to claim the cash bonuses promised by Congress. President Hoover loaned them tents, cots and rations, but when Douglas MacArthur's army troops attacked the protesters, the country became convinced their President had no compassion for the dispossessed.
Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton
This two-hour AMERICAN EXPERIENCE tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the underappreciated genius who laid the groundwork for the nation's modern economy - including the banking system, Wall Street, and an "opportunity society" in which talent and hard
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

One of the most controversial men of his age, Alexander Hamilton was a gifted statesman brought down by the fatal flaws of stubbornness, extreme candor, and arrogance. His life and career were marked by a stunning rise to power, scandal, and tragedy. He had one of the most notorious love affairs of any public figure in American history, and met his death in a startling act of political violence -- the famous duel with Aaron Burr. But his contributions as a statesman survive. As first Secretary of the Treasury during the tumultuous early years of the republic, Hamilton led the transformation of the young country into a commercial and industrial powerhouse. He was the one founder who had a vision, not of what America was, but of what it could become. This two-hour AMERICAN EXPERIENCE tells the story of the underappreciated genius who laid the groundwork for the nation's modern economy - including the banking system, Wall Street, and an "opportunity society" in which talent and hard work, not birth, determined success.
Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley
The star attraction of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Annie Oakley thrilled audiences around the world with her daring shooting feats. Her act helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanished, mythical world of the American West.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

In 1926, just a few months before her death, Will Rogers described Annie Oakley as "the greatest woman rifle shot the world has ever produced." As the star attraction of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, she thrilled audiences around the world with her daring shooting feats. Her act helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanished, mythical world of the American West. Over time she became an American legend -- the loud, brassy, cocksure shooter celebrated in the musical "Annie Get Your Gun." But that legend had little to do with the real Annie Oakley.
Chicago: City of the Century

Chicago: City of the Century
Chicago rose from a swampy frontier town to become the quintessential American city of the nineteenth century.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

City of the Century chronicles Chicago's dramatic transformation from a swampy frontier town of fur traders and Native Americans to a massive metropolis that was the quintessential American city of the nineteenth century.The film tells how innovation, ingenuity, determination and ruthlessness created empires in what was a marshy wasteland and describes the hardships endured by millions of working men and women whose labor helped a capitalist class reinvent the way America did business. Along the way, this program revels in Chicago's triumphs -- among them the architectural experimentation that gave the city one of the world's most distinctive skylines -- and delves into the heart of Chicago's painful struggles. Bringing to life the Windy City's rich mixture of cultures, its writers and journalists, its political corruption and labor upheavals, this film bears witness to the creation of one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities in the world.
Coney Island

Coney Island
Internationally famous carnival of delights, offering everything from the bawdy to the surreal.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

Before there was Disneyland, there was Coney Island. By the turn of the century, this tiny spit of New York real estate was internationally famous as the world's most remarkable carnival of delights, offering everything from the bawdy to the surreal. The hot dog was invented here; so was the roller coaster.
Edison's Miracle of Light

Edison's Miracle of Light
He harnessed electricity and revolutionized the world.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteTeachers Guide

In 1878, Thomas Edison announced his intention to harness Niagara Falls and produce a safe, electric light system. He said he could do it in six weeks. Almost three years later, all the components -- bulbs, sockets, switches, wires, junction boxes -- were finally ready. The "Wizard of Menlo Park" may have revolutionized the world, but he was caught in a web of personal, patent and corporate battles, eventually losing control of the industry he founded.
Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
The story of how San Francisco built one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World."
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

On May 27, 1937, 200,000 people thronged to the newly-completed Golden Gate bridge and walked, climbed, skated or cycled across. After 18 years of struggles to complete the bridge, San Francisco's jubilance was unrestrained. There was a tap dancer, a tuba player and a woman determined to be the first to walk its length with her tongue out.Twenty years earlier, choked off at the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco had faced a future of increased congestion and economic strangulation. Though many in the city longed for a bridge connecting San Francisco to the counties to the north, the obstacles to construction were daunting. It took a hustler and self-promoter, a man who had never designed or overseen the building of a suspension bridge, to take up the challenge. Joseph Strauss spent thirteen years wrangling with local politicians, arguing with the War Department over designs and fighting lawsuits from bridge opponents before he was able to break ground. By the time the bridge was complete, Strauss, his team of designers and his construction crews had built what has since been called one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World."
Grand Central

Grand Central
The dramatic story of the construction of New York City's Grand Central Terminal.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

When Grand Central Terminal opened on February 12, 1913, the press heralded it as the greatest railway terminal in the world. By 1947 over sixty-five million people -- the equivalent of forty percent of the population of the United States -- had traveled through the station. Today, it remains one of New York and America's most famous spaces, and a living monument to the nation's great railway age.
Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam
One of the greatest engineering works in history.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

Rising more than 700 feet above the raging waters of the Colorado River, it was called one of the greatest engineering works in history. Hoover Dam, built during the Great Depression, drew men desperate for work to a remote and rugged canyon near Las Vegas. There they struggled against heat, choking dust and perilous heights to build a colossus of concrete that brought electricity and water to millions and transformed the American Southwest.
Las Vegas: An Unconventional History

Las Vegas: An Unconventional History
A distinctly American saga of optimism and opportunity.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

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.

Los Mineros (no website available)
The story of the Mexican American miners whose labor battles shaped the course of Arizona history.
More Information

The story of Mexican American miners -- "los mineros" -- whose pitched labor battles, beginning with the first strike in 1903, shaped the course of Arizona history. It was only in 1946 that the two-tier wage system for whites and Mexicans was abolished. The film recounts the rise and fall of three small towns -- Superior, Clifton-Morenci and Sonora -- where the mining of copper ore dominated the lives of all the inhabitants.
Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford
Actress, businessperson, and legend -- Mary Pickford played a pivotal role in shaping the first new media of the twentieth century.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

Late in her life, the actor Mary Pickford described a recurring nightmare in which she walked out on stage to perform, only to find there was no one in the audience to watch her. For most of her career, Pickford had played to full houses and adoring fans. She had created a totally new way of acting that entranced audiences and left them spell-bound.

But Mary Pickford wasn't just a talented performer; she was also a creative producer and shrewd businessperson who played a pivotal role in shaping the first new media of the twentieth century. She was the first star to have her own production company and the first woman to take control of her career in a tough business run by tough men. For nearly two decades Pickford skillfully navigated her way through the industry. But by the end of her life, her nightmare became her reality. She discovered that fame was fleeting, the crowds fickle.

This powerful and moving American Experience

production uses archival footage, stills, original audio interviews with Pickford and clips from her movies to tell a story that is full of joy and power, of loneliness and despair.

Mr. Miami Beach

Mr. Miami Beach
Carl Fisher, the man who invented Miami Beach.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteTeachers Guide

In 1925, Miami Beach was the hottest spot in America, a magical playground by the sea with luxurious hotels, golf courses, swimming pavilions and Beautiful People. Yet just ten years earlier, none of it existed -- not even the sand. Everything was the creation of Carl Fisher, a fast-living dreamer and master promoter from Indiana. A self-made millionaire who built the Indianapolis Speedway, Fisher saw his tropical paradise boom -- until a hurricane, the Crash of 1929, and his own demons brought it all crashing down.

Mr. Sears' Catalogue (no website available)
A story of entrepreneurial triumph as well as an affectionate portrait of America from the 1890s through the 1920s.
More InformationBuy the Video

They started selling watches. Then Richard Sears and Alva Curtis Roebuck started a revolution -- a "wish book" that made life on the farm a little easier and put consumer goods within reach of every American. A story of entrepreneurial triumph as well as an affectionate portrait of America from the 1890s through the 1920s.
New York: A Documentary Film

New York: A Documentary Film
The history of a great city, and the forces that have shaped it.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

Known round the world as "The Big Apple," the thriving metropolis of New York offers everything one could want in a big city -- action, arts, nightlife, culture and more. So how did this city grow from a Dutch trading post into a global and cultural center? The program begins in the early 1600s when the Dutch arrived, and documents the city's development up to the dawn of the 21st century.New York explores the city's role in the American Revolution, and shows how a massive wave of immigrants began the metropolitan melting pot and created new social problems, culminating in Civil War riots. As the city grew, it experienced a new political corruption and a new-found wealth. As the 20th century approached, more immigrants arrived, skyscrapers rose from the ground, and the subway roared into action. New York became a nucleus of cultural activity blazing with glamour and excitement. The program provides an extraordinary view of the 20th century's major events, from the Depression to the New Deal, economic and population booms to social revolution, rebuilding and resurgence.Through unparalleled archival paintings, portraits, photographs and newsreels, and through interviews with celebrated and ordinary citizens, the film paints a brilliant picture of America's biggest city.
New York: The Center of the World

New York: The Center of the World
Postwar New York and the global economic order -- told through the story of the rise, destruction, and afterlife of the World Trade Center.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

The eighth episode of the award-winning series New York: A Documentary Film examines the rise and fall of the World Trade Center -- from its conception in the post-World War II economic boom, through its controversial construction in the 1960s and 1970s, to its tragic demise in the fall of 2001 and extraordinary response of the city in its aftermath.The film presents rare archival footage, including never-before-seen footage of the World Trade Center's architect, Minoru Yamasaki, at work on the project's design in 1962; and extensive interviews with commentators and experts including Guy Tozzoli and Leslie Robertson, the Trade Center's project manager and structural engineer, respectively, who recount firsthand their experience with the project's life and death.Joining them are many of the people who helped make sense of 400 years of New York's history in the first seven episodes of New York: A Documentary Film -- Pete Hamill, Mike Wallace, Robert A. M. Stern and Ada Louise Huxtable among them. The film explores the urban, economic, architectural and symbolic significance of the great towers, their horrific demise, and the ongoing effort to come to terms with their loss.
Secrets of a Master Builder

Secrets of a Master Builder
How James Eads, one of America's greatest engineers, tamed the mighty Mississippi.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

A self-made man and one of America's greatest engineers, James Buchanan Eads led a life inextricably intertwined with the nation's most important waterway, the Mississippi River. He explored the river bottom in a diving bell of his own design; made a fortune salvaging wrecks; in the 1870s built the world's first steel bridge over the Mississippi at St. Louis; then deepened the river at its mouth, turning New Orleans into the second largest port in the nation. By the time of his death in 1887, Eads was widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential men of his day.

Sit Down And Fight -- Walter Reuther & The Rise Of The Auto Workers Union (no website available)
In 1936, Walter Reuther led one of the bitterest, bloodiest battles fought in the history of the American labor movement.
More Information

In 1936, Walter Reuther led one of the bitterest, bloodiest battles ever fought in the history of the American labor movement. By sitting down and stopping the machinery of factory production, auto workers forced the Big Three to recognize their union. GM tried turning off the heat and blocking food deliveries and Ford sent members of their private security force to beat up UAW officials, but workers stood their ground.
The Alaska Pipeline

The Alaska Pipeline
An 800-mile pipeline transports crude from the largest oil field in North America. Native Alaskans, oil company representatives, environmentalists, geologists, politicians, and others tell the story of its construction.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

The pipeline built to bring North Slope oil to market was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. For more than three years, workers battled brutal Arctic weather to construct an eight hundred mile pipeline that traversed three mountain ranges, thirty-four rivers, and eight hundred streams, and that withstood earthquakes and sub-zero temperatures. The men, machines and money the pipeline brought to Alaska would forever transform what had long been regarded as America's last great wilderness. The pipeline's construction pitted America's need for energy against its desire to protect land and wildlife, sparking one of the most passionate conservation battles in American history.
The Great Transatlantic Cable

The Great Transatlantic Cable
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.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

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 Iron Road

The Iron Road
The story of the transcontinental railroad.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

A tale of high adventure, enormous human effort and engineering brilliance. On May 2, 1869, when the last railroad spike was driven, bells in the churches of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Omaha and St. Louis rang in celebration. Six years in the making, the transcontinental railroad captured the imagination of the nation, symbolizing unification of the country after five years of Civil War.
The Pill

The Pill
The story behind the development of the drug that put women in control of birth control.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

In May 1960, the FDA approved the sale of a pill that arguably would have a greater impact on American culture than any other drug in the nation's history. For women across the country, the contraceptive pill was liberating: it allowed them to pursue careers, fueled the feminist and pro-choice movements and encouraged more open attitudes towards sex. Among the key players in the development of the drug were two elderly female activists who demanded a contraceptive women could eat like aspirin and then paid for the scientific research; a devout Catholic gynecologist who believed a robust sex life made for a good marriage and argued tirelessly that the Pill was a natural form of birth control; and a brilliant biologist who bullied a pharmaceutical company into risking a possibly crippling boycott to develop this revolutionary contraceptive. In describing the obstacles they all hurdled, The Pill presents a compelling account of a society in transition.
The Richest Man in the World:  Andrew Carnegie

The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie
A look at the poor emigrant boy who built a fortune and then began systematically to give it all away.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteTeachers Guide

A look at the poor emigrant boy who built a fortune in railroads and steel, and, unlike any industrialist of his time, began systematically to give it away; a man full of contradictions and inner conflict.
The Rockefellers

The Rockefellers
No American family was as powerful, as admired -- or as hated.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

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.
The Wizard of Photography

The Wizard of Photography
He transformed photography -- and the way people view the world.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

With his introduction of the popular Kodak and Brownie camera systems, George Eastman revolutionized the photographic industry, transforming a complex, expensive technology used by a small professional elite into one that anyone could use. A brilliant innovator and entrepreneur, Eastman changed the way people viewed time and the world around them -- and even themselves.
Transcontinental Railroad

Transcontinental Railroad
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.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

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.
Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern

Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern
A personal story of one family's dramatic effort to hold onto their family farm as massive foreclosures sweep the nation.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers Guide

In the late 1980s, Iowa farmers Russ and Mary Jane Jordan faced a $200,000 debt and a bottom-line oriented bank. This is a personal story of one family's dramatic effort to hold onto their family farm as massive foreclosures sweep the nation.
Tupperware!

Tupperware!
The plastic food container that became a phenomenally successful business -- and an American cultural icon.
More InformationLaunch Web SiteBuy the VideoTeachers GuideWatch the Promo

Tupperware is a household word not just in America, but around the world. This one-hour film looks at why a plastic food container has become not only one of the world's most ubiquitous products but a cultural icon. At the center of the narrative are two dynamic, quirky characters: the ambitious but reclusive Earl Tupper, who invented Tupperware, and his flamboyant female business associate, Brownie Wise, who figured out how to sell it. Working side by side, Tupper and Wise built an empire, creating a business model that has since been copied by all well-known direct sales companies.Using interviews with Tupperware executives and dealers from the early days and wonderful, little-seen company footage of Tupperware Jubilees, this funny, probing program re-examines assumptions about American culture in the 1950s.

Wildcatter -- A Story of Texas Oil (no website available)
The tale of mavericks whose risk-taking, sweat and dreams changed an American industry.
More Information

The tale of mavericks whose risk-taking, sweat and dreams changed an American industry. Starting with Spindletop, the first Texas gusher in 1902, rare archival film and interviews with pioneering oilmen are set against a contemporary story of a modern "wildcatter," gambling to find his fortune in yet another narrow hole in the Texas earth.
THEMATIC: Technology:

American Business/Labor  |   Aviation  |   History of Medicine  |   Innovations

Who We Are Schedule Archives Kids Teachers Contact Us Shop