American Experience (1988– )
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Chicago: City of the Century: Part 1 

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13 January 2003 (USA)  »

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Well worth seeing--I can't wait to see the next disc.
28 March 2012 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

This is the first of a three-part series on the great city of Chicago. Like many episodes of "The American Experience", it's narrated by David Ogden Stiers--whose voice is just terrific. As you'd expect, the show consists of many interviews, evocative music, lots of photos and pictures, re-creations and occasional bits of vintage film.

The show concerns the earliest days of Chicago--from the days of Marquette and Joliet (early French explorers) through much of the 19th century. The early days of the film only constituted a very small portion of the show and it quickly jumped from the 17th to the 19th century--as until about 1830 it was just a tiny outpost. By the 1870s, it was a city of over 300,000! While I knew the city became a HUGE city because of the meat industry, the show was interesting (and repulsive) when it talked about the meat packing industry. You will see some very disturbing footing of a pig being killed (quite close and bloody) and tales of floating offal and pig heads in the Chicago River (which was their water supply) back in the old days was a bit shocking! Not surprisingly, the city had trouble with outbreaks of disease and much of the early days of the city were spent trying to make this hell-hole more livable. Also discussed were the immigration difficulties (the Irish were particularly hated) and the Great Chicago Fire. Overall, this is yet another great episode from "The American Experience"--fascinating from start to finish.

By the way, the entire series is about Chicago in the 19th century--no post 1900 portion of the city's history is discussed.


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