One in this documentary series. This program recounts life in America in the year 1900 through interviews and archival photographs and film footage. Host David McCullough introduces the era as a prosperous one, full of new inventions, with progress and change leading to tremendous optimism. Historian Walter LaFeber describes President William McKinley's popularity and the fear of anarchist activity during a New Year's day reception, and biographer Sylvia Jukes Morris talks about the presidential marriage, specifically in reference to first lady Ida McKinley. Historians John Milton Cooper, Jr., John M. Staudenmaie, and Donald L. Miller and writer/entertainer Max Morath recount the tremendous technological breakthroughs emerging at an unprecedented rate, noting that although this innovation enhanced Americans' quality of life it led to anxiety and feelings of insignificance. Biographer Stephen Fox explores the beginnings of the environmental conservation movement, focusing on the work of writer and naturalist John Muir. LaFeber then examines the American interest in the Philippines as the pivot of an economic empire in the western Pacific; he details the brutality resulting from the Filipinos' revolt against American domination. Historian Laura Wexler looks at the repressed situation of most American women of the age and chronicles the history of early photojournalist Frances Benjamin Johnston as an example of the process of redefining women's roles at the turn of the century. Historian David Nasaw reviews the great migration of the rural populace to cities as jobs on the farm were replaced by machinery. He also uses the case of actress Olga Nethersole in the play "Sappho" as an example of the changes in the moral climate of the country. In the tape's final segment, historian Ted Helsten and descendant Mae Lyons relate the history of a Scofield, Utah, mine explosion that caused two hundred deaths; the explosion is presented as symptomatic of the country's lack of protection for its work force.

Historian John Milton Cooper, Jr. explains the motivation behind William McKinley's choice of Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate in the upcoming Presidential election. Throughout the program the filmmakers conduct an examination of the Boxer rebellion in China, in which native Chinese massacred American and European missionaries as symbols of Western culture and economics, which were corrupting Chinese traditions. Historian Walter LaFeber looks at McKinley's political and military response to the situation, and Virginia Phipps and Lucille Wilson recall the period through their missionary ancestors Charles and Eva Price. Historian John M. Staudenmaie examines the 1900 Paris Exposition showcasing new inventions and technology and delineates the European and American views of other "primitive" cultures, which led led to acceptance of an imperialistic attitude. Historian Margaret Washington explores the plight of America's African-American population, emphasizing its diminution of power after the initial years following the Civil War; she profiles congressman George White and the "accommodationist" Booker T. Washington. Historian David Levering Lewis talks about Black leader W.E.B. Du Bois and his unwillingness to compromise the rights of Black citizens. Biographer Jean Strouse looks at the social lives and activities of the growing ranks of millionaires of the day, and writer/entertainer Max Morath examines the booming music industry and the influence of ragtime music, specifically that of Scott Joplin. Historians LaFeber and David Nasaw follow the Presidential race between McKinley and William Jennings Bryan and the issues of labor unrest and an unpopular imperialist policy, while historian Donald Miller traces the events of a fifty-five-day strike by anthracite coal miners in Pennsylvania led by John Mitchell. Journalist Joel B. Kirkpatrick, Jr., meteorologist Ronald P. Stagno, and historian Linda Macdonald report on the disastrous hurricane that killed one sixth of the population of Galveston, TX. The program ends with a brief account of McKinley's assassination by Leon Czolgosz in 1901.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,1999.


  • DATE: November 18, 1998 Wednesday 8:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:14:46
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:57497
  • GENRE: Documentary
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Documentary; History - American
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1988-


  • For "The American Experience":
  • Margaret Drain … Executive Producer
  • Susan Mottau … Coordinating Producer
  • Mark Samuels … Senior Producer
  • Charles Kuskin … Theme Music by
  • David McCullough … Host
  • For "America 1900":
  • Allyson Luchak … Senior Producer
  • David Grubin … Producer, Writer
  • Amanda Pollak … Associate Producer
  • Judy Crichton … Writer
  • Michael Bacon … Music by
  • David McCullough … Host, Narrator
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • John Milton Cooper, Jr.
  • Leon Czolgosz
  • W.E.B. DuBois
  • Stephen Fox
  • Ted Helsten
  • Frances Benjamin Johnston
  • Scott Joplin
  • Joel B. Kirkpatrick Jr.
  • Walter LaFeber
  • David Levering Lewis
  • Mae Lyons
  • Linda MacDonald
  • Ida McKinley
  • William McKinley
  • Donald L. Miller
  • John Mitchell
  • Max Morath
  • Sylvia Jukes Morris
  • John Muir
  • David Nasaw
  • Olga Nethersole
  • Virginia Phipps
  • Charles Price
  • Eva Price
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • John M. Staudenmaie
  • Ronald P. Stagno
  • Jean Strouse
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Margaret Washington
  • Laura Wexler
  • George White
  • Lucille Wilson
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