Five-part Television Mini-series "The 1930s" Explores Politics, Culture, and American Response to Economic Depression on PBS's Critically-Acclaimed American Experience Series

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On October 26, 2009, PBS's American Experience will premiere a five-part television miniseries called The 1930s, a collection of five films that examine America's response to the unprecedented economic crisis, high unemployment, and environmental catastrophe that threatened the nation during one of history's most tumultuous decades--one that is increasingly a touchstone for our own.

The 1930s, coming this fall to PBS's American Experience

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PBS's American Experience will premiere "The 1930s," a five-part mini-series that examines America's response to the unprecedented economic crisis, high unemployment, and environmental catastrophe that threatened the nation during one of history's most tumultuous decades--one that is increasingly a touchstone for our own.

Beginning with the stock market collapse in The Crash of 1929, the series looks at the creation of FDR's Tree Army in "Civilian Conservation Corps;" the construction of one of the greatest engineering projects of the modern era in Hoover Dam; the impact of the catastrophic drought that transformed the plains in Surviving the Dust Bowl; and an unlikely hero that gave downtrodden Americans hope in Seabiscuit.

"The past offers us the opportunity to see the shape of human experience," says American Experience executive producer Mark Samels. "As we navigate through our current global recession, the likes of which we haven't seen in more than 75 years, Americans can look to the '30s to help understand how we got here, and where we may end up next."

Over five consecutive Mondays, "The 1930s" will explore themes straight from today's news headlines, including:

  •     Banking security, stock market manipulation, and speculation
  •     The role of government during economic crisis, and economic recovery
  •     The relationship between environmental conservation and economic growth and stability
  •     FDR's New Deal, the economic stimulus plan of its time

Watch a preview of "The 1930s"

Film Descriptions

The 1930s: The Crash of 1929
Monday, October 26 at 9pm (check local listings)
In the "roaring twenties," while the stock market was rising, there were few critics. It was a "New Era" when everyone could get rich. Leaders of Wall Street such as Charles Mitchell, President of the National City Bank (which would become Citibank), stock specialist Michael Meehan, and Jesse Livermore, a Wall Street insider, found new ways to manipulate the stock market and grew incredibly wealthy, helping create the economic boom of that fabulous decade. Their success made them folk heroes of the day. The upward climb of the market seemed limitless. But in October of 1929, the market plunged downward taking with it the finances of the Wall Street titans and everyday investors alike.

The 1930s: Civilian Conservation Corps
Monday, November 2 at 9pm (check local listings)
In March 1933, within weeks of his inauguration, President Franklin Roosevelt sent legislation to Congress aimed at providing relief for the one out of every four American workers who were unemployed. He proposed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide jobs in natural resource conservation. Over the next decade, the CCC put more than three million young men to work in the nation's forests and parks, planting trees, building flood barriers, fighting fires, and maintaining roads and trails. Corps workers lived in camps under quasi-military discipline, and received a wage of thirty dollars per month, twenty-five of which they were required to send home to their families. This film tells the story of one of the boldest and most popular New Deal experiments, positioning it as a pivotal moment in the emergence of modern environmentalism and federal unemployment relief.

The 1930s: Hoover Dam
Monday, November 9 at 9pm (check local listings)
Rising more than 700 feet above the raging waters of the Colorado River, it was called one of the greatest engineering works in history. Hoover Dam, built during the Great Depression, drew men desperate for work to a remote and rugged canyon near Las Vegas. There they struggled against heat, choking dust and perilous heights to build a colossus of concrete that brought electricity and water to millions and transformed the American Southwest, and in the midst of the Great Depression, Hoover Dam was a symbol of hope for the dispossessed.

The 1930s: Surviving the Dust Bowl
Monday, November 16 at 9pm (check local listings)
They were called "Black Blizzards," dark clouds reaching miles into the sky, churning millions of tons of dirt into torrents of destruction. For ten years beginning in 1930, dust storms ravaged the parched and over-plowed Southern Plains, turning bountiful wheat fields into desert. Surviving the Dust Bowl is the remarkable story of the determined people who clung to their homes and way of life, enduring drought, dust, disease--even death--for nearly a decade.

The 1930s: Seabiscuit
Monday, November 23 at 9pm (check local listings)
He was boxy, with stumpy legs that wouldn't completely straighten, a short straggly tail and an ungainly gait, but though he didn't look the part, Seabiscuit was one of the most remarkable thoroughbred racehorses in history. In the 1930s, when Americans longed to escape the grim realities of Depression-era life, four men turned Seabiscuit into a national hero. In telling the story of Seabiscuit's unlikely career, this film illuminates the precarious economic conditions that defined America in the 1930s and explores the fascinating behind-the-scenes world of thoroughbred racing.

About American Experience
Television's most-watched history series, American Experience has been hailed as "peerless" (Wall Street Journal), "the most consistently enriching program on television" (Chicago Tribune), and "a beacon of intelligence and purpose" (Houston Chronicle). On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America's past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, American Experience documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including twenty-four Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards, and fourteen George Foster Peabody Awards, one most recently for Two Days in October.

American Experience is a production of WGBH Boston
Senior producer Sharon Grimberg
Executive producer Mark Samels

Exclusive corporate funding for American Experience is provided by Liberty Mutual. Major funding is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by public television viewers.


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