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Program Description: "Newcomers"

The twentieth century brought with it a new era in which the spirit and tone of modern America took hold. Drawn by the dream of prosperity, and driven by the dynamism of the metropolis, immigrants and farmers poured into American cities in unprecedented numbers. They carved out neighborhoods and a niche in the marketplace by building families, businesses and industries.

Women also entered the marketplace. Liberated from Victorian prohibitions and armed with the right to vote, they embraced new lifestyles, new fashions, and found a place in the work force.

They Made America's "Newcomers" program focuses on three innovators who made essential contributions to the creation of modern urban America.

Samuel Insull
Samuel Insull envisioned a world transformed, where all of America had access to electricity. From electric lights to electric irons to electric trains, Insull's dream was immense. As a young man in his 20's, he immigrated to America from England to learn the basics of the business from his mentor, Thomas Edison. By the time he was in his 40's, his company, Commonwealth Edison, produced more electricity than New York and Boston combined. Insull made electricity available and affordable, fostering the growth of urban America.

Amadeo Giannini
Anyone with a personal bank account owes a debt to A. P. Giannini. The son of immigrants, raised in the family's produce business, Giannini went on to lead a financial revolution that transformed the American economy.

At a time when financial services were exclusively for the rich, Giannini opened a bank that gave working people a chance to secure and earn from their savings. He lent money to "the little guy" and pursued the expansion of his banking empire with determination and inventiveness. Services taken for granted today -- home mortgages, auto loans, installment credit -- were all part of his pioneering work. Giannini's Bank of America became the largest private bank in the world and helped build the American middle class.

Ida Rosenthal
Petite, energetic and charming, Russian seamstress Ida Rosenthal became a business executive who helped women adapt to new roles through example and deed. In an era marked by the largest single influx of women out of the home and into the workforce, she knew just what these women would need to make the transition successful -- a comfortable bra.

During the first decades of the century, women's undergarments were the sometimes painful and restrictive corset and bandeau. Tapping into a perceived need, Rosenthal mass-produced a simple, well-made undergarment to support and uplift, and called it the Maidenform bra. Her "I dreamed..." advertising campaign cemented the Maidenform name into the American consciousness, and her company grew into the most recognized and widely available undergarment in the world.

page created on 6.30.2004
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