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Transcript: "Revolutionaries"

NARRATOR: They often go unrecognized, the people who change our lives -- like the ornery frontiersman held prisoner by Delaware Indians at the time the nation was born. His capture, a memory seared deep in his mind, haunted him down through the years and inspired one of the great innovations that got America moving. It would take another man, more charming and shrewd, to make the steamboat successful.

HAROLD EVANS, Writer, "They Made America": The most important thing for an innovator isn't necessarily being first. It's being able to put together a combination that works.

NARRATOR: The man who invented the revolver was reckless and wild, but his gun not only won the West, it brought in the age of mass-produced goods. Then there was the God-fearing merchant who went broke in his fight to free slaves -- before jump-starting the nation's economy with a revolutionary system of credit. Four innovators in the new republic -- four among many who moved the country from a rural backwater to the most advanced nation in the world. You may not know their stories, but they made America.


NARRATOR: The new America in 1780 was going nowhere. Three million people farmed the land on the eastern edge of the continent, hemmed in by mountains and rivers. Most people liked it that way.

EVANS: They weren't interested in manufacturers and industry. They saw America staying rural. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said, "We'll let Europe be our workshop." So there they were, with this vast continent, unexplored, and the Americans on this little strip could stay a rural village society. And why didn't they? They didn't because there were a handful of revolutionaries eager to invent a new America, not political revolutionaries like the founding fathers, but workshop revolutionaries, like John Fitch.

NARRATOR: John Fitch wanted more for himself than the hardscrabble life he was born to. First he abandoned the family farm in Connecticut, then an unhappy wife, and in 1769 set off on a restless adventure.

EVANS: There's nothing he won't do. He serves in General Washington's army. He goes to sea. He learns to be a silversmith. He learns to make brass. He learns to make potash in a factory. He starts smuggling tobacco to the soldiers in the war and then spends his time wandering through the forest, making maps.

NARRATOR: America had land for the taking. Horse and muscle power would only get you so far on the few trails and primitive roads. Settlers and traders took to the waterways -- but it was slow, tough going.

PAULINE MAIER, Professor of History, MIT: The highways of the time were necessarily rivers, but if you were moving goods to Kentucky and Tennessee and you wanted to bring some back -- agriculture produce, for example -- there's a major problem. The river on one leg of the journey or another was going to be going in the wrong direction.

EVANS: You had to pole and pole against the current, and men would pull on the banks. It was a nightmare. What used to happen was that the boats sailed down the Mississippi; when they got to New Orleans, they broke them up rather than try and go back. So commerce was stultified.

NARRATOR: John Fitch survived his Indian capture, but the problem of travel up river stayed on his mind. A horse could pull a carriage up hill. No such means worked well for a boat...But if there were some kind of power on board -- Like the steam engine now being built in England! Fitch had, in fact, never seen a steam engine. There were only three in all America, immense structures used to pump water from mines. Now gripped by the notion, he unearthed a drawing of an early British design. Fitch admired the mechanical dexterity of a drinking partner, a German clockmaker named Henry Voight. After several meetings and a good deal of rum, Voight agreed to join Fitch to try and invent a steam engine small enough to fit in a boat. But, they had no money...

MAIER: The United States had very few very wealthy mean, very few people with deep pockets. Wealth was relatively evenly distributed. That was a terrific advantage for a republic that believes in equality. It was a potential disadvantage for entrepreneurs. There were no venture capitalists.

NARRATOR: Fitch was not of the merchant or gentry class, so it was hard for him to raise money in snobbish Philadelphia. Finally he got $300 by selling shares in his steamboat company at $20 a pop. It was just enough to get started. The British would no longer sell their technology to the former colonies, so the partners were forced to build an engine from scratch. The fit of the parts wasn't perfect, but it more or less worked. They still didn't know how to harness the engine's power to make the boat move. A chain of paddles proved wholly inadequate...while propellers produced more bubbles than thrust. Benjamin Franklin said that a pump could be made to move a boat -- a form of jet propulsion. Fitch decided to see for himself. Though inventive in concept, it was hopeless in practice. Though inventive in concept, it was hopeless in practice. "I know of nothing so perplexing and vexatious to a man of feelings," Fitch declared, "as a turbulent wife and steamboat building." After a night of heavy drinking, Fitch was struck by a memory of the time he was chased by Indians paddling war canoes. "I grew too uneasy to keep my bed," he recalled, "to risk a single hour of my life for fear it might be lost to the world..." He sketched a boat -- one with a unique means of propulsion. During the spring and summer of 1787 Fitch worked furiously to bring his invention to life. He hoped to present it to the most important men in America, who happened to be gathered in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. Delegates from the states had been given the responsibility of inventing a new form of government, one that would balance the freedom of individuals with the collective needs of the nation.

MAIER: They created something, which was, in fact, new on the face of the earth. And if they did that, why couldn't they create other things? I think there was a great unleashing of creativeness that came with the Revolution.

NARRATOR: John Fitch had created something new himself. He invited delegates to Philadelphia's Front Street Wharf for a demonstration. For passengers, it was a revolutionary experience -- a vehicle traveling under its own power.

EVANS: Here was Fitch saying: This is the way America should go. We should go the way of industry and manufacture. We should become a powerful country that way, rather than living off the land. The delegates were highly amused to see this curious contraption. But Fitch actually represented the future.

NARRATOR: He made a good case for government investment in his steamboat venture. A bigger, faster boat would open the West to settlers and trade. But Fitch didn't get any money.

MAIER: The problems with getting government subsidies in the 1780's was that government didn't have that much money. State governments, lacking resources, had to find other ways they could encourage economic development.

NARRATOR: What Fitch did get was an exclusive charter to navigate the Delaware and Hudson Rivers by steam. It was an early form of patent that allowed him alone to reap the rewards of his invention. He struggled to find new investors and did whatever he could to earn money. Half starved, he worked himself to the bone cleaning clocks. It took him three years to raise funds for a new 60 ft. boat with room for freight as well as passengers. This time the paddles were at the stern. The partners set up a service between Philadelphia and Trenton to compete with carriages and sailboats. It was the first steamboat service in the world. "We reigned lord high admirals of the Delaware," Fitch exalted, "and although the world and my country does not thank me for it, yet it gives me heartfelt satisfaction." They served passengers sausages, beer and rum, and during the summer of 1790 traveled nearly 3,000 miles. But the Delaware steamboat never caught on and lost its investors' money. Once Fitch's service closed down for the winter, it never opened again.

KIRKPATRICK SALE, Fulton Biographer: There were stagecoaches that would go up on either side of the -- of the broad banks of the Delaware. There were also sailing boats that were going up and down. It was not a complicated river to navigate. And people would rather, they said, they would rather go on a safe old sailboat than one of these loud steamboats. He had a chance to go to the Hudson, a terribly difficult river to navigate by sail, and the stagecoach from New York to Albany had to go over terrific terrain and took a long time. The trouble with Fitch is that he picked the wrong river. And so Fitch failed.

NARRATOR: He struggled to build a still better boat, the Perseverance, but investors were wary. He began to drink heavily. Then, one stormy night, the vessel was wrecked on its moorings. It was his last boat. He saved up opium pills prescribed for insomnia and on a summer night in 1798 John Fitch swallowed them all. He had succeeded and he had failed, but he proved right in a dying prediction: "The day will come," he said, "when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention."


NARRATOR: While John Fitch struggled, a younger more polished man, also from Philadelphia, was determined to make his mark. Robert Fulton had left America in 1786 when he was 21 to seek glory and fame in Europe. He starved as a painter, then tried his hand at engineering. The drawings he made were a catalog of cutting edge ideas at the dawn of the 19th century. There were designs for housing, aqueducts, canals and a machine to dig them. Deep in his portfolio there was even an illustration of a little steam powered boat. The studies were promotional gold with such an air of reality, they made it look as if his projects were already up and running.

SALE: He had an ambition to get to the top somehow, and he had apparently, by all accounts, a charm that worked on both men and women.

NARRATOR: Fulton caught the eye of Joel and Ruth Barlow, a wealthy American couple living in France. Joel was a poet, diplomat and businessman, Ruth intellectual and daring. Together, they took Fulton to their bosoms -- quite literally.

SALE: The Barlows, whom he met in Paris and then lived with in Paris, in a menage trois, were obviously very important people in his life. They supplied comfort and aid for his ambition. And they provided a home. It was really Fulton's first home since his childhood. Fulton lived on a grand scale with the Barlows and mingled with the top people in Paris.

EVANS: He didn't have any kind of wealth, but he'd learned to use his great charm, his enormous intelligence, but basically his charm, to flatter, to woo. He was a champion sponger.

NARRATOR: Fulton's life was forever changed in 1802 when the Barlows introduced him to a new government minister recently arrived from America. President Jefferson had sent Robert Livingston to negotiate with Napoleon for American vessels to sail the lower Mississippi territory, then owned by France. Livingston had a grand estate on the Hudson and had himself dabbled in steamboat design. He was technically inept but shrewd enough to grab John Fitch's license to ply the Hudson. Now all he needed was a technical genius to build him a steamboat. Fulton was dizzy with excitement, blinding the older man with his engineering know-how, his vigor, and his dexterity with mathematics. By the time the carriages were summoned, the two men had a fifty-fifty handshake to build a steamboat -- a partnership John Fitch could only have dreamed of. Fulton pored over the ideas of everyone who had thought about a steamboat. He was not concerned about being original. Why go to the bother of inventing a steam engine if you could get round the English restrictions and buy one?

EVANS: Fulton is very frank about this. And he defends it, and I think legitimately. He says, "Just as a poet sits down with the letters of the alphabet and makes something new out of something that existed, the words that existed, so do I, as an inventor, sit down with the wheels, the gadgets and the gears which existed, and put them together in a new fashion and make something new."

NARRATOR: Fulton systematically tested various arrangements of paddle boards, screw propellers, sculls and endless chains. He ended up using a very old idea to drive the boat -- paddle wheels -- like the water wheels in a flourmill. In the spring of 1803, Livingston triumphed in his talks with Napoleon and seized the chance to buy 565 million acres of what is now America at less than three cents an acre. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States and threw open the West for settlement and trade. The partners knew the Mississippi would provide a glorious home for the steamboat, if they could first succeed on the Hudson. Fulton sailed for America. It was his first journey home in twenty years. He rallied the shipwrights at Charles Browne's shipyard in New York cheering them on through five months of construction. The big day was Monday, August 17, 1807, with a 150-mile trial run from New York to the capital city of Albany. The boat that appeared made the rivermen laugh. It was 146 ft. long and only 12 ft. wide.

EVANS: Everybody called it "Fulton's Folly." And in fact, he didn't take any paying passengers on this first voyage, setting off from New York. He invited some of his friends, ladies in fine hats and gentlemen in their fine clothes. And they were all kind of nervous. And their nervousness became more intense when Fulton gave the order to start up, the engine started, the smoke came out, they moved forward ten yards and stopped. So with his flair for the dramatic, he jumped up on the wheel house and spoke to them and said, "Everything will soon be fixed." He rushed downstairs, found out what was wrong, fixed it, and they set off. "Lock the doors," cried a terrified farmer. "The devil is coming up the river in a blazing sawmill!" The boat that would later be known as the Claremont moved onto Albany and into the annals of history.

SALE: It was the success that he knew that he was capable of, and that he knew that he was going to get. And he knew also that this is going to be riches and fame that he'd wanted all his life.

NARRATOR: Livingston added bubbles to the champagne with the announcement that his cousin Harriet had accepted Fulton's proposal of marriage. She was 25, a harpist, a painter, and rich, and Fulton, at 42, was heading for riches. The steamboat caught on at once. Fulton threw himself into every detail of the operation and eagerly sought to improve the boat's design.

EVANS: He didn't design something like poor John Fitch did, kind of crude. Fitch didn't even want a cabin on his steamboat. But Fulton thought about how he would get dressed in the morning, where the mirror would be, what the lights would be, what the service would be like. He had strict rules about no smoking, keeping quiet, no rowdy singing to waken the ladies.

NARRATOR: Fulton built and operated 21 successful boats and created a steamboat empire in the East. In the West, on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, his success would be built on by others. Settlement followed the steamboat, trade and manufacturing, the settlements.

SALE: The steamboat was essential for the growth of America. It made that middle part of the country into a power, economic and political power, of such might that it rivaled the 13 original colonies within 25 years.


NARRATOR: As settlers filled the land, a new problem arose. Neighbors were now often strangers, and businessmen didn't know who they could trust.

EVANS: Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? There was no way of knowing. Communication was very difficult. A man arrives in your store, he looks very respectable, he has a letter from a vicar, this is a trustworthy person. You're not to know that that's a forgery.

NARRATOR: The problem with trust flowed all the way back to New York City where most Western merchants went to buy stock for their stores. Lewis and Arthur Tappan ran their ladies' wear business very profitably by following strict Christian principles. The question of who to trust and give credit was avoided altogether by honoring the Bible's injunction against usury -- sales were strictly for cash.

EVANS: Lewis Tappan was born to a very strict Calvinist mother, who taught him, "Your duty isn't to go and preach Christianity. Your duty is to enforce it." It was a muscular Christianity. And so he went out in a kind of terror into New York City, impelled to do good and to root out sin wherever he could find it.

NARRATOR: The brothers gave away bibles; blew the whistle on gaming houses; they even stormed brothels "to pluck fallen women," as Lewis said, "from roaring lions who seek to devour them."

EVANS: They used to go round New York City and set up spy cells of Christians who would come and see them and say, "so and so is running a brothel," "There's a gaming taking place here." Now, this was really an amazing espionage service, by which the Tappans tried to enforce morality on New York City.

NARRATOR: Lewis's zeal for reform would produce a surprising outcome: the revolutionary system of credit.

It all began in June of 1830, when a singular young man entered the Pearl Street store -- fresh out of a Baltimore jail. William Lloyd Garrison, a brilliant agitator to end slavery, moved the brothers to join the abolitionist cause.

BERTRAM WYATT-BROWN, Professor of United States History University of Florida, Gainesville: The dynamism of this movement came from the idea of a religious conversion; that the immediate abolition of slavery had to be done at once. You must fall on your knees, believing that slavery and slaveholding was a sinful thing that would send you to perdition forever.

NARRATOR: Lewis promoted the crusade with his usual vigor. At abolitionist meetings he stood and cracked a slave whip. "Pray to God to break the rod of the oppressor," he cried, "and let the oppressed go free." Many in New York had a vested interest in the slave trade and stirred up white laborers with the notion that freed slaves would take their jobs. Antislavery meetings were disrupted. Lewis opened a package to find a black man's severed ear. Mobs broke into his home and besieged his store. Merchants all across the South boycotted the Tappans. Arthur, who ran the finances, realized there was no choice. To attract new customers he began to offer credit. Then, in 1837, a financial panic swept the nation. Arthur was caught short, and to his undying shame was unable to pay his bills. The shop defaulted. "At 53," said Lewis, "I found myself worth nothing."

ROWENA OLEGARIO, Asst. Professor of History, Vanderbilt University: Throughout the 19th century, what you had was a business cycle that was very, very severe. The peaks were high; the troughs were low. It could happen very, very quickly. And so it was understood throughout the business community that sometimes the economic environment would be so bad that a majority of business people would not be able to pay their debts. And so what became important therefore was, did they try to pay it eventually.

NARRATOR: It took him a year, and threatened his health, but Arthur repaid all his debts. Still, a problem remained. Lewis's customers now expected credit, and how could he know who among them to trust.

BROWN: Here was an opportunity. Because if you could find some means of checking up on people, invading their privacy, if you will, then you might be able to rely upon them or decide that they were not trustworthy.

EVANS: So Lewis had this brilliant idea. Just like he set up Christian spy cells on the brothels and on the taverns and on the gambling, he got abolitionists and lawyers round the country to spy for him on who was a good credit risk.

NARRATOR: Tappan enlisted correspondents to send regular reports about local merchants, then he offered to sell this information to businesses giving credit. In 1841 he set up a firm and called it the Mercantile Agency.

BROWN: What he liked to say was, "It will expose knavery and purify the mercantile air." And that's what he thought he was doing. He was doing God's work.

NARRATOR: Lewis went knocking on doors. He had counted on having hundreds of subscribers. Five months in, he had only five.

OLEGARIO: It was a very, very new idea. There were many articles in newspapers, criticizing what the Mercantile Agency and what Lewis Tappan were doing. For example, one newspaper said, "Neighbor will spy on neighbor."

BROWN: Some people said, "I won't have anything to do with you. You're an abolitionist." Others would welcome him in, and he would make a successful sale. And he would sing the praises of the Lord. And then he'd be turned down, and "God is not favoring me." And there was always -- almost every sale became a sort of test of his relationship to God.

NARRATOR: By 1844 the agency had 280 clients and 300 correspondents. One of them was a young lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, named Abraham Lincoln. Another was Ulysses Grant, who reported of a subject: "He has nothing but an office chair, a barrel with a board and a fine young wife, but I reckon his ability and ambition compensate for his lack of capital."

OLEGARIO: What they tended to report on, were character traits. For example: Is the person honest? Is the person honorable? Is the person thrifty? Because an extravagant person, extravagant in their personal lives as well as their business lives, is not a good risk, obviously.

NARRATOR: Soon the Agency had branches in Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The newly invented telegraph kept records timely by providing an instant alert on such calamities as the failure of a large business firm. Tappan sold the business in 1856. With money enough to retire he worked to the end of his days to free slaves. His Mercantile Agency grew and grew and became the first large scale successful network of credit reporting -- known today as Dun and Bradstreet.

PART 4 - Samuel Colt

NARRATOR: The revolver was said to have won the West, a place of myth in America. And no one was more mythic than its creator, the wild, abrasive, one and only Sam Colt.

EVANS: Sam Colt got to be so famous because Sam Colt wanted to be famous. And in fact, the first step to being famous was to call himself Sam Colt, and not Samuel Colt. Sam Colt, the euphony of that masculine name, was really very important to him. So was his sprawling signature. He signed almost anything that he could get his hands on Sam Colt, Sam Colt, Sam Colt.

NARRATOR: Colt made his own myth, then writers and Hollywood elaborated. At the heart of the myth was an undeniable truth. Colt's revolver was a technological breakthrough.

MERRIT ROE SMITH, Professor of the History of Technology, MIT: It shot six shots in the time that it took someone with a single-shot pistol to load and fire maybe one shot. If you're on the frontier, or if you're in a military situation, you can imagine what a big difference that makes.

NARRATOR: Colt's passion for explosives went back to his youth, along with an impulsive nature. On Independence Day of 1829 he invited friends to view an underwater explosion. His flair for promotion was already well developed. The next Fourth of July, his pyrotechnic display set a school building on fire. His parents were glad to see him off as an apprentice sailor. Maybe it would straighten him out. In fact, it fashioned his destiny. During the boring passage to India sixteen-year-old Sam whittled a discarded piece of wood into a pistol -- with a revolving chamber. Back home, his father gave him the money to hire a gunsmith named John Pearson to craft the weapon from metal. Each component was made by hand, a costly and difficult process.

ROE SMITH: It's a highly skilled craft. You had to be a blacksmith and a forger. You had to be a woodworker, in terms of shaping the stock. And then many of these early guns were outfitted and -- with brass parts, so you had to be a brazier, too.

NARRATOR: Colt came up with a wild scheme to pay for additional work. He traveled the country as "Dr. S. Coult, of New York, London and Calcutta" and dispensed a mind-altering whiff of laughing gas to anyone who would pay him fifty cents. Colt spent more on the road than he made and left a trail of angry creditors, Pearson foremost among them. "I worked night and day so I would not disappoint you..." the gunsmith wrote his employer, "...and what have I got for it...why vexation and trouble." Colt was troubled himself -- by the time and money it took to build weapons by hand. He and his father toured the federal armory in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the government paid to develop machines that would mass produce arms.

BILL HOSLEY, Executive Director, Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, New Haven, Connecticut: At a time when they didn't have big budgets, this was one area where they were willing to spend the money to secure national independence in defense and munitions, so that everyone knew that the government was willing to invest in this.

NARRATOR: Colt was inspired by the potential of machines to do the work of skilled craftsmen...perfectly and without complaint. He won his first U.S. patent when he was just 23 and convinced skeptical relatives that there was a market for his innovative repeating revolvers and rifles. With their money, in 1836, Colt launched the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company in Paterson, New Jersey. The effort proved far beyond him. The cost of machines was staggering, and few workers were skilled in their use. Colt's endless tinkering upset the production of parts. He spent thousands wining and dining the Washington brass, but Army tests found the guns overly complex and accident prone.

HOSLEY: There was a sense that it wasn't a practical invention. They were too expensive to make, and they actually were destructive. They would explode occasionally in use.

NARRATOR: Colt struggled on, and his company turned out some 4,000 weapons before it went bankrupt in 1842. He had lost the equivalent of 17 million dollars. A despondent Colt took himself off to New York City, away from his critics and creditors.

HOSLEY: He was being shunned actually by his biological family because of this failure, because so many of his cousins were investors in it. And it was a pretty hard time for him. He had sort of a period in the wilderness there. "I was so poor," Colt said, "I hardly knew where the dinner tomorrow would come from."

EVANS: He still passionately believed in the revolver and the repeating rifle, but he had to do something with his life. He joined the New York Historical Society. He went to scientific lectures. He studied mathematics and chemistry. He became a changed man.

NARRATOR: Then, in a moment straight out of a movie, he was rescued by a cavalry charge. In the spring of 1844 Colt heard that a band of Texas Rangers, outnumbered five to one, had used his weapons to defeat a force of Comanches. A hero of the engagement was Captain Samuel Walker. Colt eagerly sought his endorsement. "Without your pistols," Walker wrote, "we would not have had the confidence to undertake such daring adventures. ... With improvements, I think they can be rendered the most perfect weapon." Colt recruited Capt. Walker to help redesign his revolver into a five-pound "hand cannon," able to stop an enemy at 100 yards. When the U.S. declared war on Mexico in May of 1846, and faced the much larger Mexican army, Colt received an urgent government order -- $25,000 for 1,000 revolving pistols.

HOSLEY: He rushed back to Connecticut and Massachusetts, where he had family and connections. Eli Whitney in New Haven had a company that had the machinery necessary to make some of these products. He cobbled together a group of subcontractors to help him execute this first contract.

NARRATOR: On October 12th of 1847, Walker, his Colts blazing away, led 250 men against 1,600 entrenched Mexicans. The Mexicans single shot weapons were no match for the deadly revolver. The Americans did not merely win a battle. With peace on February second of 1848, Mexico granted the U.S. another big building block of land alongside Texas and the new Oregon Territory. Colt's invention had helped create the modern continental America. As settlers moved into lawless lands, a vast civilian market opened for guns. There were the '49ers rushing to California goldfields, Mormons facing hostility in state after state, pioneers pushing Indians west off their land. Everywhere, it seemed, there was a Colt revolver. Whether Colt's invention advanced or retarded civilization is still argued today, but there's no question that he advanced American industrialization. The new factory he built in Hartford, Connecticut, was state of the art, and the largest private armory in the world. Opened in 1851, it was staffed by the best engineers that money could buy.

HOSLEY: He hired the leading machine toolmaker and shop floor foreman really in all of New England, a guy named Elijah K. Root who was able to create this choreography of machines and machine parts to speed up the pace of manufacturing and to improve the quality of the individual parts.

NARRATOR: With Root's help, Colt was able to adopt techniques from the Federal Armories that allowed 80 percent of the work to be done by machine. Now interchangeable parts could be assembled by unskilled labor.

ROE SMITH: I think there are a lot of times in our history when government investment in new technologies is very important, especially when the new technology is at a very risky stage, and private entrepreneurs are a little leery about investing in it. The government will come in and get it to a point that it becomes commercially viable, and then it shifts over into becoming a private sector phenomenon. And so there's this sort of "government in, government out" scenario that gets played out in the United States, many times. I think it's one of the geniuses of our system, and we never really seem to recognize how that works.

NARRATOR: Colt didn't need any help selling his guns; he was a natural at marketing. In an era when advertisements contained little more than text, he hired the frontier artist George Catlin to paint a series of romantic adventures that featured his weapons -- and printed them up for the public. He courted the favor of military and political leaders with beautifully engraved pistols. Their replies gave birth to the celebrity testimonial. His display at the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition in London was a smash. One local reporter wrote of the weapons, "None were more astonished than the English to find themselves so far surpassed in an art which they had practiced and studied for centuries." The demand for Colt weapons during the Civil War doubled the size of his armory. After the war the expanded capacity provided an unexpected legacy.

ROE SMITH: Manufacturers began to realize that you could take these new techniques that were being used for making guns, and apply them to the manufacture of all sorts of commercial products. You have gun-making technology being used for the manufacture of sewing machines. Then came typewriters, cash registers, bicycles and automobiles. The new technology had endless applications.


NARRATOR Machine-made products, purchased with reliable credit, and delivered by steam-driven transportation laid the foundation for a flourishing national economy. The keystone was set in 1869 with the completion of the magnificent transcontinental railroad. America was now the single largest market in the world -- and it was going places.

EVANS: The country is now for the first time, a continent which is united. Now, it's got access to its resources, its minerals, its farm products; now its cities are more related to each other by the railway. What's is it going to do with all this freedom and this potential wealth?

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