The “Great East River Bridge” was the largest bridge of its era, a technical achievement of unparalleled scope, marked by enormous construction problems, equally ingenious solutions and heroic human achievement. In unexpected and wonderful ways, the Brooklyn Bridge captured the imagination of all Americans, and in the process became a symbol in American culture of strength, vitality, ingenuity and promise. Brooklyn Bridge tells the dramatic story of the larger-than-life men who imagined and built it, and the immense charm this granite and steel structure has exerted on generations of city dwellers.
For more than 100 years the Statue of Liberty has been a symbol of hope and refuge for generations of immigrants. In interviews with Americans from all walks of life, including former New York governor Mario Cuomo, the late congresswoman Barbara Jordan and the late writers James Baldwin and Jerzy Kosinski, Statue of Liberty examines the nature of liberty and the significance of the statue to American life.
They called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, but because of their ecstatic dancing, the world called them “Shakers.” Though they were celibate, they constitute the most enduring religious experiment in American history. They believed in pacifism as well as natural health and hygiene; for more than 200 years, they insisted that their followers strive for simplicity and perfection in everything they did. The Shakers put their “hands to work and their hearts to God,” creating an exquisite legacy of fine furniture, glorious architecture and beautiful music that will remain and inspire long after the last Shaker is gone. The Shakers is a portrait of this particularly American movement.
He was a populist hero and a corrupt demagogue, hailed as a champion of the poor and reviled as a dictator. Louisiana’s Huey Long built his remarkable career as Governor and U.S. Senator on a platform of social reform and justice, all the while employing graft and corruption to get what he wanted. Long’s spellbinding personality and political machine might have taken him to the White House had he not been assassinated in 1935. Huey Long is a complex and comprehensive portrait of the man and the era, his politics and the power he so obsessively sought.
His paintings were burly. Energetic. And as uncompromising as the Midwestern landscapes and laborers they celebrated. Thomas Hart Benton was a self-reliant American who emerged from the Great Depression. Today his works hang in museums; during Benton's life, the artist preferred to hang them in saloons, where ordinary people could appreciate them in congenial settings. A fierce defender of the aesthetics of realism, Benton took on the art establishment and railed against abstraction. His reputation suffered as his star rose, fell and rose once again. Thomas Hart Benton tells the bittersweet story of a great American artist who became emblematic of the price all artists must pay to remain true to their talents and to themselves.
This portrait of the United States Congress explores the history and promise of one of the country’s most important and least understood institutions. It tells the story of the Capitol building itself—including its burning by the British in the War of 1812 and its completion in the midst of the Civil War—and chronicles the extraordinary personalities, events and issues that have animated the first 200 years of Congress and, in turn, the country.
For 50 years radio dominated the airwaves and the American consciousness as the first “mass medium.” Empire of the Air examines the lives of three remarkable men who shared the primary responsibility for this invention and its early success, and whose genius, friendship, rivalry and enmity combined in unexpected and often tragic ways. This is the story of Lee de Forest, a clergyman’s flamboyant son, who invented the audion tube; Edwin Howard Armstrong, a brilliant, withdrawn inventor who pioneered FM technology; and David Sarnoff, a hard-driving Russian immigrant who created the most powerful communications company on earth.