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"They Made America" Revolutionaries (2004)

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It's all in the timing

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
17 March 2012

This is the first in a four-part series on folks who helped make America great. It's narrated by David Ogden Stiers--the same guy who often narrates episodes of "The American Experience"--and since I love "The American Experience", I thought I'd give this series a try. In many ways, it plays like an episode of "The American Experience"---but with a slightly different format. Instead of one story, the show is made up of several--in this case, three. The shows are based on Harold Evans' book "They Made America"--so it's not surprising he's the most frequent interviewee on the shows.

Here is a breakdown of the three parts of this particular show:

First, is the American history of the STEAMBOAT. From the early experiments and failures of Fitch (which is a story with a very sad ending) to the commercial success of Robert Fulton, it's a very compelling story about entrepreneurs who had a vision. In addition, there is a salacious aspect of Fulton's life I'd never read before--as most biographies seem to clean up his image a bit. See the show to see what I am alluding to with Fulton. recreated early steamboat model by Fitch! SAD story Fulton--rather salacious story about the Barlows

Second, is a very surprising story about CREDIT REPORTING. Now you really wouldn't think about this but credit is a huge thing that led to many, many fortunes. A man named Tappan had failed in other jobs but struck it rich in this area--and also used his new fortune for a wonderful cause.

Finally is the story of the REVOLVER and the self-promoting Sam Colt. He seemed like a real character, as, for a while, he sold hits of laughing gas for $.50 each to earn money! Later, he came up with the idea of the repeating pistol and how to produce it better and cheaper through the assembly line. It's a pretty amazing story--as are the others.

Overall, a very fascinating episode of a very good series. In some cases it highlighted famous Americans and in others it discussed some new figures who have often been ignored. Excellent throughout.

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