The Adams Chronicles (1976)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Drama | History
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Ambitious multipart PBS production that brings to life five generations of one of America's leading political and historical families. It traces their lives from John Adams early years as a... See full summary »

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Won 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 18 nominations. See more awards »


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Series cast summary:
 George Washington Adams / ... (4 episodes, 1976)
Albert Stratton ...
 Thomas Jefferson (4 episodes, 1976)
 Narrator (4 episodes, 1976)
John Beal ...
 Charles Francis Adams (3 episodes, 1976)
Peter Brandon ...
 Henry Adams (3 episodes, 1976)
Henry Butler ...
 James Monroe (3 episodes, 1976)
Nancy Coleman ...
 Abigail Brooks Adams (3 episodes, 1976)
Leora Dana ...
 Abigail Smith Adams (age 44-74) (3 episodes, 1976)
Thomas A. Stewart ...
 Charles Francis Adams (3 episodes, 1976)
 James McHenry (2 episodes, 1976)
Maureen Anderman ...
 Mary Cathering Hellen (Older) (2 episodes, 1976)
Susan Bjurman ...
 Fanny Adams (2 episodes, 1976)
Peter Coffield ...
 George Washington Adams / ... (2 episodes, 1976)
Patricia Elliott ...
 Minnie Adams (2 episodes, 1976)
Paul Hecht ...
 Jay Gould (2 episodes, 1976)
 James Madison (2 episodes, 1976)
Robert Phalen ...
 John C. Calhoun (2 episodes, 1976)
J.C. Powell ...
 Charles Adams (2 episodes, 1976)
 John Quincy Adams II (2 episodes, 1976)
Reid Shelton ...
 Timothy Pickering (2 episodes, 1976)
Charles Siebert ...
 Charles Francis Adams II (2 episodes, 1976)
Jeremiah Sullivan ...
 Alexander Hamilton (2 episodes, 1976)
Robert Symonds ...
 Benjamin Franklin (2 episodes, 1976)
 Thomas Adams (2 episodes, 1976)
Charles Tenney ...
 Brooks Adams (2 episodes, 1976)
Mark Winkworth ...
 John Quincy Adams (2 episodes, 1976)


Ambitious multipart PBS production that brings to life five generations of one of America's leading political and historical families. It traces their lives from John Adams early years as a colonial Boston attorney to the rise in prominence of Brookes Adams in the fields of political and social philosophy. This mini looks into their triumphs and tragedies, exploring their genius and profound social conscience. Written by CD

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History





Release Date:

20 January 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De kroniek van de familie Adams  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(13 episodes)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Jeffrey Jones' TV debut. See more »


Version of John Adams: Unnecessary War (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

The Adams Family Of Massachusetts
17 March 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

In our BiCentennial year of 1976, PBS produced this fine series, not just limited to founder John Adams, but for four generations of the Adams family which can rightfully be called our first American political dynasty.

The Adams family and not Charles Addams's characters are revisited every so often by historians and recently David McCullough got many honors for his new biography of redoubtable John Adams. In this series John was played in the many stages of his almost 91 year life by George Grizzard.

Grizzard does well with the part at every stage of the Adams career from his days in the American Revolution to his death at the Adams home in Quincy. Adams was one of our most complex of founders. He was brave, brilliant, and a man of principle to the highest degree. He was also incredibly vain and could be arrogant on occasion.

Historians tend to rate him higher as president as versus his overall career than I think they should. As our second president under the Constitution, Adams presided over a period of development of our governmental institutions. He made the mistake of retaining Washington's cabinet as is instead of forming his own. That was understandable, but what he also did is for the first two years of his presidency spent all his time in Braintree at the family estate instead of Philadelphia tending to business. The cabinet fell under the charismatic sway of Alexander Hamilton.

We were in an undeclared naval war with France at the time that could have gotten formal. When Adams did finally stir to action he did fire most of his cabinet and did in fact eventually gain a truce with France. Probably at the cost of his presidency. My contention always has been if he'd paid attention to business in the first place it all need not have gone that far.

John Quincy Adams is played by several actors in various stages of life, but most prominently by William Daniels who in fact played John Adams in 1776. Quincy was one chip off the old block. Unfortunately he gained his one term in the White House through a brokered deal with Henry Clay when the Electoral College was deadlocked. The cry of 'corrupt bargain' rang through the land as supporters of plurality winner Andrew Jackson yelled foul. Mainly because Henry Clay didn't cut his deal with them. Still Adams was a lame duck incumbent almost from the gitgo.

Adams is probably one of the five people most historians will name as one of our best Secretarys of State which he was under his immediate predecessor James Monroe. He held many positions before that and after his presidency was elected to the House of Representatives from the Quincy, Massachusetts area. Some of that story is familiar to current moviegoers from the film Amistad where Anthony Hopkins played John Quincy Adams.

The Adams family had their dull carbon mixed in the diamonds. John Adams's other son Charles died an alcoholic, John Quincy Adams's oldest George Washington Adams was a wastrel and drowned in a ferry accident or possible suicide. Both deaths occurred right around the defeats of both men for a second term.

The saga continued on with Charles Francis Adams best known as our Minister to the United Kingdom during the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction. It was the key diplomatic post during the Civil War. Adams deserves a lot of credit for keeping Great Britain out of war with us, the Palmerston government would have loved an excuse to intervene on behalf of the Confederacy. This Adams is played by John Beal and the series concludes with the distinguished careers of his sons, writers Henry and Brooks, and railroad executive Charles Francis Adams,II.

Another Charles Francis Adams, the son of Charles II, was a Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of Herbert Hoover. But that's after the time period of this series concludes. I'm sure the United States of America has not seen the last of the Adams family in public service.

Still with the renewed interest in John, it would be nice if this PBS mini-series was made available on DVD and/or VHS.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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