10 Fashionable Marvels That Modified America


Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022 at 8 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand now with KPBS Passport!

—A Whirlwind Tour of 10 Engineering Feats that Made our Civilization Potential—

Rejoice those that have scoffed on the legal guidelines of nature and defied the naysayers — and generally even gravity — by endeavor these unbelievable feats of engineering. Every story features a enjoyable physics lesson and a story of human folly, starting on the Erie Canal, a 363-mile lengthy man-made waterway that was constructed within the nineteenth century by 1000’s of laborers utilizing primitive hand instruments.

Find out how skilled engineers linked our rising nation by constructing magnificent bridges, intricate rail networks, and a continent-wide system of freeways. Uncover the intense measures that engineers have taken to ship water from distant rivers to our kitchen sinks. It’s straightforward to take these fashionable marvels without any consideration with in the present day’s easy accessibility to roads, bridges, and consuming water. However behind a lot of our each day conveniences was a intelligent engineer — and a exceptional story.

10 Fashionable Marvels That Modified America: Preview


Erie Canal, New York (1825) – Constructed with little greater than horses and sheer manpower, the Erie Canal fulfilled the long-time dream of a waterway that might hyperlink the Atlantic Ocean with the fertile farmland of America’s inside.

Internet Additional: When Mules Dominated the Canal

Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati (1867) – John Roebling could also be well-known for the Brooklyn Bridge, however his first creation got here 16 years earlier with this suspension bridge that linked Ohio and Kentucky — a free state and a union state within the midst of the Civil Struggle.

Internet Additional: A View from the High of the Roebling Bridge

Transcontinental Railroad (1869) – Uncover the complicated negotiations that went into the creation of the railroad that might shrink the time it took to cross the nation from six months to 1 week — and was constructed principally by Chinese language laborers.

Internet Additional: A Fashionable Journey on the Transcontinental Railroad

Eads Bridge, St. Louis (1874) – Within the age of the railroad, the Mississippi River had grow to be a barrier to coach visitors, till an ingenious younger man named James Eads created the primary metal bridge, ushering in a brand new metal age for engineering, structure, and manufacturing.

Eads Bridge, St. Louis

Courtesy of Lazarus Nunley/WTTW

Eads Bridge, St. Louis

Reversal of the Chicago River, Illinois (1900) – As Chicago grew into a serious metropolis, its river grew to become an open sewer that fed immediately into the town’s water provide. It took a artful engineer named Ellis Chesbrough to provide you with a startling plan: reverse the movement of the river to the Mississippi, towards the town’s longtime rival, St. Louis.

Holland Tunnel, New York, (1927) – The primary underwater tunnel for automobiles needed to clear up a seemingly not possible, life-or-death problem: construct a tunnel with sufficient air flow to forestall it from turning into a lethal gasoline chamber.

Hoover Dam, Nevada (1936) – It was designed to do the not possible: cease the mighty Colorado River useless in its tracks and supply water and energy for the rising cities of Southern California. The dam additionally employed 1000’s within the midst of the Nice Melancholy.

Hoover Dam, Nevada

Courtesy of Eric Guideng/WTTW

Hoover Dam, Nevada

Colorado River Aqueduct, California (1939) – Offering a lot of the consuming water for southern California, the aqueduct – one other Melancholy-era public works mission and the brainchild of L.A.’s controversial water division superintendent William Mulholland – travels from the river, throughout the desert and 5 mountain peaks earlier than descending into Los Angeles.

Interstate Freeway System (1956) – Plans for an interstate freeway had been round for the reason that Melancholy however lastly got here to fruition beneath President Eisenhower, who had seen the worth of fine roads as he led troops by way of Germany throughout WWII. This endeavor — the most important engineering mission in human historical past — would additionally speed up an exodus to suburbia.

Internet Additional: The Present State of the Interstate

New Orleans Threat Discount System, New Orleans (2005) – Following the lethal devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Military Corps of Engineers created a system of safeguards – together with a two-mile lengthy, 26-foot excessive barrier, pumping stations and closable canals – designed to assist the town survive more and more violent storms and rising sea ranges and function a mannequin for different coastal cities world wide.


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Buy the Season 2 DVD at ShopPBS.org. Season 2 contains “10 Streets that Modified America,” “10 Monuments that Modified America” and “10 Fashionable Marvels that Modified America.”


The collection, 10 THAT CHANGED AMERICA, was produced by Dan Protess at WTTW. Geoffrey Baer hosts.


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