American Experience: Season 8 (1995 - 1996)

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Season 8
American Experience

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Air date: Oct 16, 1995

The details of the murder trial were considered so sexy and lurid that for a time, by presidential order, news accounts of the scandal were forbidden to be carried in the U.S. mail. Originally televised as an installment of the award-winning PBS series The American Experience, this documentary chronicles the Thaw-White murder and trials of 1906-08. As this program shows, it was the first "trial of the century" of the 20th century. Stanford White, the playboy architect whose firm designed Madison Square Garden, was shot and killed in public by jealous husband Harry Thaw, heir to a railroad fortune. His wife was the beautiful showgirl, Evelyn Nesbit. The program offers a study of early 20th century New York and the full-blown arrival of sensationalized "tabloid journalism." Highlights include commentary by historians, archival photographs, and motion picture footage.

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Air date: Oct 23, 1995

This PBS video is part of the popular American Experience series. It chronicles the story of Thomas Edison and his pioneering efforts in the field of electricity. In 1879, in Menlo Park, NJ, Edison dazzled the world with the first display of electric lights. The story continues with Edison's rivalry with Nicolas Tesla and his backer, George Westinghouse, over control of the electric industry. Tesla's more efficient design of alternating current eventually won out against Edison's direct current method. Archival photographs, diaries, and scholarly commentary tell the story of this giant figure in American history.

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Air date: Nov 13, 1995

The Democratic Convention of 1968, in Chicago, seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of both extremes of the political spectrum. As this episode of the PBS series The American Experience shows, America in 1968 was at war in Vietnam, and it was a war that was getting more and more unpopular. Chicago mayor Richard Daly, an old-style Democratic political boss, was angered by anti-war protestors outside the convention, and sent his police force in to break up the protests. In what has been described as a "police riot," the Chicago police, in riot gear and wielding night sticks and firing tear gas, indiscriminately cracked the heads of innocent bystanders and newsmen as well as protestors exercising their rights of free speech. This documentary postulates that this nationally televised violence played a significant role in Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey's loss of the 1968 presidential election to Republican Richard Nixon.

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Air date: Nov 27, 1995

Minister Charles Loring Brace wanted to help the high number of homeless and mistreated children he was witness to throughout New York City. His remedy: relocate these children to developing rural areas in the United States in need of labor. From 1853 to 1927 under the auspices of the Children's Aid Society, over 100,000 were shipped to Texas and the Midwest, where, though sent under good intentions, were often treated as slave labor, abused, and bounced around from farm to farm. With interviews with now-grown orphans and testimony from foster parents, their stories of triumph and heartache come to light, enhanced with photographs and personal journals detailing their experience.

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Air date: Jan 22, 1996

This program offers an in-depth portrait of a controversial figure in American history, the former mayor of Chicago Richard Daley. The political machine built by Daley transformed the face of American politics, but his inability to deal equitably with racial and ethnic tension led to his undoing. From his alleged involvement in John Kennedy's presidential bid to his fateful decision to build the country's first urban housing projects, no major event in the life of this man is missed.

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Air date: Jan 22, 1996

This program offers an in-depth portrait of a controversial figure in American history, the former mayor of Chicago Richard Daley. The political machine built by Daley transformed the face of American politics, but his inability to deal equitably with racial and ethnic tension led to his undoing. From his alleged involvement in John Kennedy's presidential bid to his fateful decision to build the country's first urban housing projects, no major event in the life of this man is missed.

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Air date: Jan 29, 1996

In 1941, the film Citizen Kane almost never made it to the theaters due to the enormous controversy over Orson Welle's caricature of William Randolph Hearst. In addition to chronicling the fight over the film, this story looks into the events that led Welles to make the film.

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Air date: Feb 12, 1996

Written, produced, and directed by Nancy Porter, this documentary chronicles how the eccentric Wright brothers overcame their own sibling bickering and the skepticism of the world to build the first successful flying machine. As Tom Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum explains in an interview, "They weren't college graduate engineers, but at the same time, they were two of the best engineers working in the world at the time." Highlights include footage of a replica of the Wright brothers' plane built by Rick and Sue Young and flown at Kitty Hawk by Jacqueline Young and David Young. Narrated by Garrison Keillor. David McCullough hosts this program, which originally aired as an episode of the Emmy award-winning PBS series The American Experience.

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Air date: Feb 26, 1996

Written, produced, and directed by Linda Garmon, this episode of the Emmy award-winning PBS series The American Experience chronicles the development of the CIA supersonic spy plane dubbed the U-2, and the international crisis triggered when American pilot Francis Gary Powers got shot down while flying the jet over the Soviet Union. As Roy Scheider narrates, the 1960 incident ended U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, but it was a U-2 that later discovered the missiles the Russians tried to sneak into Cuba. The documentary features interviews with various people involved in these historic events, including U-2 pilots Bob Ericson and Hervey Stockman. Highlights also include archival film footage from Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the BBC, the CIA, the National Air and Space Museum, and Fox Movietone News, as well as archival photographs from the CIA, NASA Ames Research Center, and UPI/Bettmann Archive, Inc. Hosted by David McCullough.

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