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tv   C-SPAN Cities Tour Explores The Great Depression Era  CSPAN  May 29, 2020 12:16pm-1:34pm EDT

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sunday on reel america the 1936 film from the tennessee valley about two massive dam projects, the norris dam in tennessee and the wheeler dam in alabama. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. 1929, the financial house of cards collapses and the stock market plunges into a great depression. a financial panic gripped the world. ♪ this land is your land, this land is my land, from california to the new york islands ♪ >> i have but one desire and that is to see my country again on the road to prosperity. ♪ this land was made for you and
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me ♪ >> it is my belief that the only thing that we have to fear is fear itself. >> by the time franklin roosevelt gives his march 1933 inaugural speech, almost a quarter of the nation is unemployed. more than 5,000 banks have failed and drought is persisting in key agricultural areas of the country. >> people must have faith. >> coming up in the next hour, stories from the great depression as we take you to places like toledo and then in 1931 five of the six largest banks all failed at the same time which made it the largest banking failure of the great depression. to successful infrastructure of the times still impacting us today. and to one ending in tragedy. we'll talk you to st. paul with gangsters and the corrupt police force strike a bargain. we'll explore the impact of new
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deal programs like the conservation corp as we go just outside of amarillo, texas. >> we wouldn't have a park here if it wasn't for the conservation corp. >> and we'll hear from artists who tell tales. we begin our cities tour feature on the time period with a trip to toledo, ohio. >> in the 1920s, toledo was the fastest growing manufacturing city in america. in some ways it was like the silicon valley of today. the auto industry, cutting-edge technologies were centered here and was going gang busters. and toledo seemed to be one of the brightest spots on the whole american map during a decade of
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prosperity. and then in 1931 the entire house of cards collapsed all in one week. and five of the six largest banks in toledo all failed at the same time which made it the largest banking failure of the great depression and banking was perhaps more corrupt than other places and contributed to its collapse. toledo was the 27th largest city in america and its economy was rather diversified for a city of its size. it was an up and coming major producing of automobiles. it had one of the largest automobile companies, the willies overland company producing cars here. but it was also a city that had a large manufacturing base in the glass industry. in fact, not only did it have the most glass production of any city in the country, it's companies owned the important patents to glass technologies.
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so any bottle and any window pane came back here. the banking system was similar to ohio in that the banks were mostly chartered by the state government, not the federal government. and that is significant because that means that the federal government didn't regulate or inspect them and instead the inspections and the regulations were done by the state of ohio. and that unfortunately allowed banks to pretty much pursue a wild west atmosphere of investing. they really didn't have many constraints on the type of loans they would give out and they really didn't have my constraints on any business decisions that they made. what eventually happened is that the banks pretty much escaped even state regulation. we know this because just on the eve of all of the banks collapsing, the state inspectors
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certified them all as being healthy and, in fact, the bank that is right next door, the security home bank, was put on the honor roll of ohio banks even though it hadn't made a profit in over a year and the inspectors show that they were $300,000 short on the accounting and the bank directors have begin themselves dividends illegally and still it was on the honor roll of banking. that is how weak things were here. and this is the only bank that survived that period and it survived because it was part of the federal reserve system and it was federally inspected when meant it had to have good accounting and wasn't able to escape the regulations put upon it. and when the bank crisis occurred, when the other banks began failing, this bank could call upon the federal reserve in
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cleveland and have an armored truck filled up with $11 million in cash and driven out here at a high rate of speed and so fast, in fact, that it got into an accident and had to transfer the entire stock into a different armored car to make the trip to put the depositors at ease. all of the banks in the city were owned by local investors and controlled by local directors and the major problem that leads to the bank failures is that the directors and owners were also involved in other companies. so they were often times the owners of some of the big manufacturing companies in town. oftentimes bank directors would be on two or three banks at the same time. and they would all be involved, all of the bank directors that were heavily invested in real estate companies because one of the primary contributes to the bank crisis here in toledo in the 1930s just as it was in
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america in 2007, was the overinvestment in real estate. real estate speculation reached a mind-boggling rate in the 1920s. for example, by 1925 there was 435 real estate companies in this small city. and they developed 67 sub divisions which could old over a million people for a city of a quarter million people. clearly overleveraged and overinvested and the reason the real estate companies could do that was because they were largely owned by the directors of the banks who by loaning them money were essentially giving themselves money. and the interlocking directors to the different manufacturing companies meant there was all of these incentives for bankers to give out loans whether there really wasn't collateral or a good business reason to do so. and by 1931 that overhang of bad
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loans finally, the bill came due and on june 6th, 1931 rumors began swirling around the city that the banks were about to fail and crowds of depositors lined up outside of the very doors demanding their money. little this d they know when they lined up outside of the doors the people inside of the bank, the directors and owners were already removing their money ahead of the depositors leaving them very little. so toledo after the bank crisis of '31 went from being a city in a recession, to being a city in a cat astrophe. as many as half of all the workers in toledo were laid off. things got so bad that the city of toledo, which quickly bankrupt itself couldn't afford to buy bulb for the street and
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they couldn't afford to replace the fire trucks so the fires burned uncontrolled increased. by 1934 one out of six people were on federal relief and that was so -- so tight for toledo that dieticians began calculating minimum number of calories needed to maintain life and that is what is allocated to individuals. so it couldn't have been much worse from that sense. the city was very much closed by 1932 as a result of the bank crisis. so toledo was very much in this state of economic catastrophe through most of the great depression. it wasn't until -- i mean 1935, 1936 that the programs of the new deal began to have an effect. by the late 1930s, a very high proportion of the workforce in toledo was federally employed.
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so it was relief that got the city back on its feet. and of course as it is true throughout the country in the great depression, the coming of the war in the 1940s invigorated the economy. toledo retooled for the war and began making the fame or war time willie's jeep and converted hardware factories into munition factories and by the 1940s, toledo was running on full employment again. but the economy would never rebound the way it was in the 1920s. it was the fastest growing city in the countries and in the 1930s it lost population and even in the '40s, '50s and 60s never recovered from the depression and that is the modern history. >> two years after the banking crash, the nation's banking
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system itself is verging on collapse as fdr speaks to the nation on march 5th, 1933. >> you people must have faith. let me make it clear that the banks will take care of all needs. >> but the banking system is not the only thing president roosevelt has his eyes on. >> bill after bill pours into congress from the white house. whatever roosevelt wants, he gets. house is burning down said the republican floor leader so give the president anything he needs to put out the fire. through 100 historic days of a special session, every new deal measure passes without question. the new secretary of the interior haroldicous administers those hired. >> those work on large scale public works and infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads and dams.
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most notable is the hoover dam receiving $38 million from the pwa. up next, our c-span cities tour feature on the great depression takes you to what was named the boulder dam until a 1947 act of congress changes the name to honor fdr's predecessor in the white house, herbert hoover. >> hoover dam was started in 1931 in april. the contractors were begin seven years to complete it and they actually got it done in five years. when the federal government decided to authorize hoover dam and fund it, it took literally six different construction companies to come together with their resources to have enough stuff, machines, man power, to put this together. so you'll see the signs around hoover dam that it was built by six companies because that is how many it took and they joined forces to build this beautiful play. totally there was about 21,000
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men that worked on dam. at the peak, toward the end, around 1934 there were 5,000 workers here working. they worked 24/7. they wihad two days off a year,t was voluntarily and everybody gets christmas but the other day that they could take off was the fourth of july, that is how proud they were of this structure. the primary purpose for building hoover dam was flood control. the colorado river could flood and flood and trickle and trickle and flood and someone once said it was too thick to drink and too thin to farm. so what they wanted to do was add some stability to the southwestern united states to increase farming and enhance the growth of community, but they needed to control the colorado because it kept washing everything away. so hoover dam was built for flood control. the other purpose of course was water delivery. under a compact signed with arizona, nevada and california, the water was divvied up for
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last 688 miles of the colorado river, that is our region here. so they wanted to have a way to deliver that water. you can't do it all at once. you have to do it when the farmers or the communities need it so water delivery was second and hydropower, generating electricity was the third reason. >> right now we've come down about 500 feet. we're in one of the tunnels that was built inside the rockwalls beside hoover dam. we're headed to the arizona side of the dam. so the arizona side is part of hoover dam that contains nine generators and generating electricity and you could see when we get in there, some of them are generating and some are not. and these generators are marks a1. we don't generate all of the
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time but when we get an order from the electrical companies that say we need more power and our joke around here is when you turn your air-conditioner on in california you see some of the generators fire up because they want some more power. but the interesting thing is we don't just generate power, we deliver water and water is king. we'll not generate any power unless there is a water delivery to go with it. because that water is designed to fulfill the water orders and it will be released to generate electricity when the water orders come in. hoover dam is 726 feet high. now that is 171 feet higher than the washington monument in washington, d.c. so we're about 50 feet above the bedrock. where the water comes out the turbines and it is going to feed the contractors who have water entitlements to the colorado. it is a gravity arch dam which means it is 60 feet at the bottom and comes up to 45 feet
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at the top. so basically it is pushing down and against the wells of the canyon so it is definitely staying in place. the dam when it was constructed took about 4.3 million cubic yards of concrete. now that is enough to build a 16 foot wide highway from los angeles to new york. so when they were building that, of course, a lot of construction folks know that concrete takes time to cool. well to conquer that problem and keep pouring and keep pouring and make the deadline, they built their own refrigeration tank and they ran pipes through the concrete with refrigerated water to cool the blocks so they could keep pouring. so as they poured, they cooled the concrete and poured some more and cooled it. it was quite an ingenious thing to build their plant down here at the bottom of the canyon. there is a large body of treaties, court cases, agreements called the law of the
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river and included in the law of the river is the compact that was signed in 1922 which divvied up the water into the upper colorado river basin and the lower colorado river basin. that lower colorado river basin is basically what hoover dam controls. water delivery to arizona, california and nevada. now at the time they divvied it up, they were counting on record keeping from 1905 and those were wet years so they divvied up the water based on some wet years. now the system is variable. you could have great snow pack years and get lots of water in the colorado. or you could go through what we're going through now, 16 years of drought with maybe one good year in there. so the lake is dropped and the river, at this point, given the history, is what is being called overa overall okayed. and it means that the hydrology isn't keeping up with the water
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delivery needs that are contracted with us. as of today we have never failed to meet the contracted water deliveries to arizona, nevada and california. and we don't anticipate that next year. but if we continue to see the lake drop, we might be in a condition called shortage in future years and under that compact arizona and nevada would take less water, california having the senior water right in that agreement. when the compact was signed in 1922, and i looked this up, the census for nevada was 8,000 people. nobody envisioned a las vegas or a reno or any of the industries that have risen in nevada since then. as time went on, and water became more available, the community sprung up. las vegas grew and clearly has become a huge community and people continue to move out here but they've managed their water. they knew how much they had. it was predictable how much they could take by contract so
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they've managed to recycle their water. if you look at the fountains in downtown las vegas, that is not freshwater. they take care of every drop and recycle it and put a lot back into lake mead. it was pretty clear especially in the great depression this is going to be an if enormous undertaking and people will want to come and see this. so in order to acknowledge that and make a place for all of these visitors they knew they had to add some of the art-deco work in there. we are marble floors an the wing statues made of copper that salute the american spirit are there on the memorial plaza so they knew people would come and they sure did. we sell 800,000 tickets a year for the tours and you don't have to buy a tour ticket. so we're figuring we get about a million people ayear that come and visit hoover dam. spend their time and take a look around. it is such an incredible mixture of engineering and art-deco creativity. i sometimes think to myself, how
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did those straight line engineers and that architect who is more creative, how in the world did they find a place to get along and make this so beautiful and so functional. >> and so boulder dam stands today, a modern colossal, shouldering the walls and standing and controlling the floods and bending the will of a ungovernorable stream, the colorado river. >> the hoover dam is one of over 34,000 construction projects the public works administration funds during the depression. providing jobs to a nation with a nearly 25% unemployment rate, the agency spends over $6 billion from 1933 to 1939. next, a pwa construction project gone wrong. as our c-span city's tour feature on stories from the great depression takes you to the pacific northwest.
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partially funded by the public works administration, the tacoma narrows bridge is build over the puget sound toward the end of the era. >> the area we're standing in right now is in the southern section of puget sound which is the washington state and pacific northwest great inland water and when the transcontinental railroad came there was talk about one day being able to span puget sound but it wasn't an undertaking anybody was willing to do. during the depression, federal programs like the building of the grand cooley dam and stuff, public works projects happening in the pacific northwest. and in the mid 1930s, there began to be talk about creating a bridge over puget sound to reach from tacoma to the kitsap
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peninsula. common narrows bridge was opened on the 1st of july in 1940 after two years of construction. the tacoma narrows is also a bit of a wind tunnel. and people working on the deck began to notice movement. and almost like airplane wing lift in the. so unlike just kind of horizontal movement, they began to feel a vertical lift in the bridge, especially in the center span. you know, there was no suspension bridge anything like this anywhere in our part of the world, anywhere in the pacific northwest so that was an unfamiliarity with just how a big thing like this was supposed to behave. so people excited about it, there is a certain musical kind of gracefulness about a bridge like this. so people, i guess, just wanted
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to think it wasn't anything wrong. that it was normal. and once they get all of the concrete down on the deck and everything and the weight that was added, that would all go away. and then as we went out of summer and began to get into fall and the winds picked up a little bit, our prevailing wind out of the southwest which blows almost directly on to -- across the bridge deck, they began to notice that there was an undualation in the deck. and by fall, soldiers were coming out from the mimt -- for the military base to kick their feet over the railing and stand on the outside of the bridge and lean out as far as they could and the center deck of the bridge would be rising, not just inches but feet. to a point where the undulation was so severe that two
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automobiles or a truck and automobile coming in opposite directions, the headlights of the vehicle coming at you would disappear under the rolling kind of hill of this -- of the deck. so, for conservative people, something was horribly wrong from the very beginning. for a community that was proud of their new bridge, for the many people that participated in building the bridge, it was unthinkable that this was wrong. but the engineers began to work on the idea of some stiffening of the bridge. they thought that the railings on the side could be converted into sort of deep i-beams and that would add some rigidity to the bridge and so some of the minor structural additions, modifications, were implemented or about to be implemented as we got through october of 1940. and by early november of 1940,
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really only four months, four and a half months after the bridge had been completed, the weather began to shift into its winter patterns and that really was the bell weather of what was about to happen. on the morning of november 7th the winds kicked up to about 40 miles per hour and they were fiercely directed right at the side of the bridge. as if it -- the way the wind comes over the wing on an airplane and instead of the normal undulation of the bridge, the deck began to twist, began to turn and everybody noticed immediately that it had been watching the bridge, in a was a behavior people had not noticed before. and so early in the morning of the 7th there were hundreds if not thousands of people who would come out on both sides of bridge to be able to start to watch what was happening and
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start to watch this behavior. the bridge keepers, it was a toll bridge to the bridge keepers had decided that they would close the bridge. this was just wrong. it was not safe any more. and indeed it was -- it was just not a action that should happen within an object of this size. one last car was coming across the bridge, even though the access to the bridge had been shut off. there was one last car coming across the bridge, a man coming from his summer home over on kitsap peninsula, headed towards tacoma. had a cocker spaniel with him in the car and by the time he got to the most severely moving part of the bridge deck he couldn't control the automobile. so the car swung just screeched around and sort of ended up diagonally across both lanes on
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the bridge and he jumped out and ran and got off the bridge. and then for the next 30 or 40 minutes the bridge went into just a violent, just movement that no one had seen before. and all of the crowds on both sides all sort of closed in to just watch so there was, i think, when everyone started to suspect that the impossible was about to happen, that the bridge was going to give it up, was going to fail. with no one really on the bridge, strangely enough, a university professor who had worked on trying to solve the puzzle, it was enough time for people to be able to get out there and here is a university of washington professor who actually ran out on the bridge trying to get the dog out of the car. and there is great footage of
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him. it looks like a steen spielberg movie. today you watch that footage and you cannot even imagine that somebody would run out on to the bridge and with this tearing sort of deck. he got out there and the dog was just too terrified to get out of the car and so he gave up and kind of strolled back, was knocked down a couple of times by the movement of the bridge and finally got off the bridge and then in the few moments that followed, the deck tore away from the hangers and the witnesses talk about it being like listening to gunshots because the jewels, they're called, these big bolts that are the cable comes down and goes through the deck and then there is a big bolt on the bought automat -- bottom could keep it from coming out and the cables began to snap under the force. the light standards on the
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bridge are just cutting, swirling across rapidly and catching on the cables and in just a moment the connection between two sections of the bridge deck fail and there is a violent twist and tear of the deck and in the moments that followed that huge sections all begin fail and most of the center span of the bridge underneath the big suspension cables falls way, drops away from the bridge and then just plunge into puget sound. no one is killed in the incident. no one is even hurt. so they demolition as much as they can, in november of 1940. and then as they begin to think about having to re-engineer the whole thing, the clouds of war close in and the second world
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war and by that time they realize there is no way during the war effort that they'll be able to get the bridge rebuilt and then pearl harbor happens and the shipyards become a critical strategic thing and the focus shifts away from public works projects. in fact, the towers and the steel on the bridge is removed and brought into the war effort, recycled and turned into bullets and tanks and whatever. actually sections of the bridge, the steel, are actually used on the alaska highway to build a highway up to alaska during the world war because of the land lease program and the ties with the northwest in alaska. so it really -- the remnants gallopy gurdy sit in the channel through the war and only after
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the war that they begin to reconstruct another suspension bridge and then in 1950 the second tacoma narrows bridge is complete. and that is the bridge we see in the distance here. the steel bridge that is standing, the steel towers in the distance. i doubt that there is a text book or a reference book written about bridge engineering that doesn't include tacoma in the index because of the tacoma narrows bridge. and it is impossible for me to imagine that engineering students all over the world have seen the film of galloping gurdy's collapse. it is one of those absolutely spell-binding moments in engineering history, one of those disasters, those utter failures of design that is completely captured on film and it is amazing.
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it still is jaw-dropping to see a huge endeavor like this, a physical object move with this much just dance with this much movement that are out of the parameters of the original design. >> one thing that is happening, men are going to work for the government by the millions. on new buildings, roads, schools, bridges and anything to get the forgotten man, as roosevelt calls him, off the bread lines and on the job. any job. wpa. it stands for works progress administration but critics say it really means we poke along. >> while the depression is the era of public money, it is also the era of public enemies as gangsters grow rich on bank robberies and bootlegging. >> this is the epicenter of
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1930s crime in the era of john dillinger. >> next to saint paul for famous outlaws and prohibition and the fbi pursuit of america's most wanted criminals. >> cities all over america that were safe havens for gangsters, hot springs, arkansas, cicero, illinois, outside of chicago. but any of the other cities were st. paul. 50% of minnesotans were involved in making bootleg liquor in those days. the other 50% were buying it from them. this minnesota area was also well situated to make bootleg liquor, to break the prohibition law. we had a lot of germans and they know how to make beer. we had more breweries per capita than almost any city in america. when i break the law and make illegal liquor, you need water.
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you need freshwater. we had the mississippi river only a few yards from where we're standing today. and we're very close to the border of canada. so liquor could be imported and exports over the canadian border. so as a this area was a haven for bootlegging and became a haven for public enemies and gangsters. the history of the building that we're in right now, which is today called landmark center, but in the 1930s, the public enemies era, it was called the old federal courts building. the history is incredible. above our heads on the fifth floor is the offices of the prohibition bureau. the man who headed the prohibition bureau was the man who wrote the american p prohibition act. it was a congressman from granite falls, minnesota, who created prohibition in this building, then when the prohibition was repealed and all
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of these bootleggers -- what were they going to do? liquor was legal? they turned to bank robbery, kidnapping, labor racketeering, extortion and murder. and that's what this building became then. the fbi, the federal bureau of investigation with hoover had this building as their headquarters. as they say, if these walls could talk, what notorious stories they do tell. in the 1930s, virtually every major gangster, kidnapper and bank robber in america lived and worked within a three block radius of where we are standing today. john dillinger, baby face nelson, alvin creepy carpus all were here. people don't know that. there's no statues of the gangsters, but this was the epicenter of 1930s crime in the era of john dillinger. basically, the police in st. paul at the turn of the century
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sent the word out to gangsters, bank robbers, kidnappers, come to st. paul. you can be here. you have to promise not to kill or rob anyone within the city limits of st. paul. of course, pay a bribe. as long as you are on your good behavior, mr. john dillinger, baby face nelson, you are welcome in our city. the deal between the crooks and the gangsters was tolerated for almost three decades. the people of st. paul would see the most notorious gangsters in america, wanted men, like john dillinger walking along the street. it was like seeing a celebrity. but you wouldn't fear for your life in st. paul in the 1930s because you knew the fix was in. the crooks were on their best behavior. it's march 1934. the most wanted man in america,
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public enemy number one, bank robber j eber john dillinger is behind us. basically, regroup, to get his bank robbery gang ready for a crime spree. he was here enjoying time with his girlfriend. they went to the movies one block away from us. meanwhile, his gang is getting weapons, getaway cars and casing which banks they will rob from their home base here in st. paul. the fbi didn't know this was john dillinger. they began to get hints that a strange man was living in this apartment building. the shades were always drawn to the bottom. dillinger never came out to get his mail. the big tip-off was john dillinger's girlfriend, a beautiful woman from wisconsin, named billie freshette would hang up john dillinger's laundry
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dressed in a halter top and short shorts. i have talked to men in their 80s who remember 70 years ago when dillinger was here and they said, my god, this girl was so beautiful, they still remember dillinger's girlfriend. the fbi sent a crew here to knock on dillinger's door. they didn't know. they thought it was carl hellman, which was john dillinger's alias when he lived above at 303. >> you are walking toward john dillinger's apartment. it's apartment 303. all you know is that there's something suspicious in apartment 303. you knock. this is dillinger's door right here. dillinger is in bed with his girlfriend. she opens the door, peeks out and you go, ma'am, we're here to speak to carl hellman. the woman forgets her own alias. she goes, carl, carl -- oh, my
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husband. the fbi are not fools. they go, ma'am, we are staying here. you go and get carl. she runs to the bed. says, john, john, the jig is up, it's the fbi. dillinger says, get your clothes on, gets a machine gun, comes to the door, opens it, leans out, grins at the fbi and starts firing machine gun bullets out of the door. the police and the fb i start firing back at him. this door is chewed up by bullets. john dillinger, not a master criminal, not a single bullet from dillinger's gun hits any of the fbi agents in the actual corridor you are in. one bullet from the fbi and the police hits john dillinger in the thigh. incredibly, john dillinger has escaped from the fbi shootout. he lays down fire and comes out this door.
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dillinger is wounded in the leg. dillinger races over here, stands here holding a submachine gun in one hand and a gun in the other and tells his girlfriend, get the getaway car. literally the most wanted man in america is standing here bleeding like a stuck pig. a boy in this building next door sees a man who he recognizes as john dillinger, bank robber, reaches under his bed, takes out a shotgun and aims it at dillinger who is here. the kid is seconds from becoming the boy who killed john dillinger when his mother, hearing shots that were from here, tackles her son, throws him to the ground and dillinger is not killed in st. paul. he gets in the getaway car with his girl and roars away to wisconsin. a little rest and relaxation.
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the deal between the crooks and the cops, which had stood for years, meaning the crooks live here but they don't kill or kidnap anyone here, fell apart. bank robber john dillinger's girlfriend was tried successfully in this room. before she was found guilty of harboring her boyfriend john dillinger, she tried to escape. she said she had to go to the lady's room. the federal marshals followed her through this door. then the marshal, shy, stood back allowing her to go to the bathroom at which point she simply kept on going down this hallway and tried to escape. fortunately, the federal marshals overcame their shyness about a female soon to be convict and grabbed her and made sure she did not escape. the fbi was quite concerned that
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the dillinger gang would try to come here with their machine guns and free dillinger's girlfriend. so in the porches you see behind my head, there were federal marshals armed with sawed off shotguns and thompson submachine guns waiting in case any members of the gang would show up to liberate their comrades. it never happened. you can imagine what it was like in this room in the sweltering heat of the summers of '35 and '36 when all the gangsters were here and everybody was waiting to see if other gangsters with machine guns would come and try to free them. in this building is both the inception of prohibition that led to widespread organized crime all over america. that's how al capone got his start as a bootlegger. then this is the building where
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all of those bootleggers and bank robbers were tried and sent to alcatraz, levenworth and other prisons. it's where it began and where it ended. >> while the gangsters turned to crime to make a living, others turned west. >> across the great plains from the texas panhandle to the canadian border, the exhausted earth, breoken by the plow, begins to blow away in black blizzards. by the thousands, they abandon homes, fr homes, flee the dust bowl. they give a name to the new breed. okkies. >> over a million people, many farming families, leave their homes and head to california. finding jobs mostly on large farms and with minimal pay, these migrant workers live in squatter camps and shanty towns,
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unwelcome by my californians, okkie is used to describe them. one to make this is woody guthrie whose music brings attention to them. next, stories from the great depression continues as we take you to the woody guthrie center in tulsa, oklahoma. ♪ ♪ >> i got started in oklahoma. that's where i was born. one-third indian, one-third negro and one-third white people. i hit the road and i was about 13 years old doing all kinds of odd jobs all over the country. traveling amongst all these kind of people. i picked up a lot of songs. ♪
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♪ this land is your land ♪ this land is my land ♪ from california to the new york island ♪ ♪ from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters ♪ ♪ this land was made for you and me ♪ >> woody guthrie is most famous for "this land is your land." he was more than that. he was born in 1912 in oklahoma. we are very proud to have his work back in oklahoma where we think it belongs. he was an advocate for people who were disenfranchised, for those people who were migrant workers from oklahoma, kansas and texas during the dust bowl era who found themselves in california literally starving. he saw this vast difference between those who were the haves
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and have nots and became their spokesman through his music. gu opened in 2013. it started with the purchase of the archives from his daughter nora. the plan was to have this research facility in tulsa. as the concept grew into the idea of opening up those archives to a new generation and teaching people about woody's important part of american history, this museum came to be. we really consider it a place to inspire people. we want them to investigate what woody did with his talents. and then inspire people to go and use their talents to do something of their own. ♪ when the sun comes shining, then i was strolling ♪ >> many of the people who were displaced during the dust bowl were just looking for a better way of life. some of them had lost their
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farms due to foreclosure. others had lost their farms due to the dust bowl itself, the drought and all of the winds that just blew their soil away. and they had nothing. so they were promised this garden of eden and plenty of work. come to california and we will have plenty of work for you. it's a wonderful place to be. then when they arrived, they found out that was not really what was going on. they had been the victims often times of a marketing ploy by large land owners who were trying to get very cheap labor. they knew if they had an overabundance of labor, that they didn't have to pay them very much. the workers had no rights. whenever woody arrived and saw that, it didn't seem right. in our country of plenty, where so many have so much, to allow
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families to struggle so horrifically and to degrade them in a way that makes them feel less than human was just -- it's not acceptable. this area of the center focuses on the dust bowl experience and the dust bowl era. it was such an important part of who woody was and what really started his work. it's a significant thing for us to mention. also, it's such an important part of our history as oklahomans. we want to make sure that our young people understand the resilient people that they came from. the way that they persevered in the face of this natural disaster that was actually manmade had the plains not been plowed like they were and overcultivated and then the dust bowl would not have occurred like it did. in this area, we have an exhibit that features some photos with woody's writing to compliment
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items about the dust bowl migrants and what they were dealing with. a sketch of him going to california. and then one of his scrapbooks. it's one of my favorite pages. it's a short notation in answer to some articles that were posted about him. and he just says, yeah, i will do everything i can to help the folks from oklahoma, don't you worry. i just think that's really -- it speaks for who he was and what he was intending to do. also we have lyrics that woody wrote. le a little nod to john steinbeck. ♪
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♪ >> then a song that talks about the way the people would be greeted at the border and told if they didn't have money they
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wouldn't get into california. then "dust pneumonia." so many of the -- especially the very young and very old died because of dust pneumonia. woody recorded very few songs of his own. we have a listening station that features 46 of his songs in his own voice. most of the time when people hear woody guthrie songs, they are not woody singing them. they are someone else. he spent his time traveling. he spent his time in the migrant worker camps, in union organization rallies. so he didn't spend a great deal of time in the recording studios. that's what makes the recordings that he did make so significant and so important to us. ♪
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>> woody had themes to his writing. woody wanted to make sure his people were well represented in his artwork and his lyrics. there's some sketches here. city of los angeles, no children wanted. you have the hoovervilles over here in the shining city in the background. i do like that he said there's one consolation left, the children that are raised in the sun will always be the brightest. woody was working with the migrant displaced workers. he felt that the one way that they could actually make a difference, that they could create workers' rights was to unionize. at this time, that was a pretty
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dangerous concept. today it's like, yes, i will join a union. at that time, not so much of an option without facing some kind of violence. in these lyrics, 1913 massacre, he talks about a party where some union members were joining during christmas and the boss men created a panic by saying there was a fire and then locked the doors. so that was in michigan. ♪
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>> i think woody would go back into history and research other events that still were pertinent to the struggles that the workers were still facing. in the first line he says, take a trip with me back to 1913. so he makes it clear that he is going back. and he is telling the story of this massacre that happened in 1913. so he is pointing out that this fight that they are facing for workers, for the displaced oklahomans, the problems that they are facing are still alive today. these people who face this disaster should not be forgotten. again, woody was an artist. he used his artwork sometimes in a playful way.
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other times for social commentary, often a combination of both. he has this almost a little story that he tells about the hand, the worker. the hand thinks it over. and the hand cusses the boss out. the boss yells cops. law and order comes. and hand is charged with trying to overthrow u.s. government. join the cio. if you have these troubles, join the union. we're currently in the area of the center dedicated to this land is your land. of course, since that is the song most people recognize as a woody guthrie song. it's an important theme for our country. we wanted to make sure that it was given its proper credit here. this land is your land actually
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celebrated its 75th birthday february 23rd of this year. we have the original handwritten lyrics on display. while most people recognize the song as a sing-a-long from our elementary school days, usually that didn't involve singing the fourth and sixth verses which were much more a social commentary about how things really could be improved in our society. yes, woody thought we had a beautiful land and he paints this gorgeous landscape of the things that he saw as he travels from coast to coast. but he also wants to point out about things about the people and how we are treating the people. and how we should be taking care of each other better. ♪ there was a big high wall there ♪ ♪ that tried to stop me ♪ sign was painted, said private property ♪ ♪ but on the back side it didn't
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say nothing ♪ ♪ this land was made for you and me ♪ >> the idea of a landowner seeing people who were starving outside this beautiful land that he had and saying, no, you have to keep out, this is private property, didn't really go along with what woody thought demonstrated our beautiful country and what we have to offer our citizens. ♪ this land was made for you and me ♪ >> i think it's important to note that woody was a class warrior in a day that so many artists were not. he was the person who gave a voice to the voiceless. ♪ this land was made for you and me ♪ ♪ i ain't got no home
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>> with woody guthrie singing about the workers not having a home anymore, another new deal program has young men moving into camps together across the nation. >> few object to the civilian conservation corps. it takes thousands of young men out of the towns and cities where there is nothing for them to do and puts them in government camps where there is plenty to do. >> they built this road by hand basically for $30 a month, a dollar a day. you can't build the rest of the structures and facilities until you have access to it. it changed their live lives. without their work we would not have everything we have today. the experience of driving into the state park is a lot like it has been for thousands of years. all of a sudden you come across this huge drop into the earth. it's even today, it's a shocking experience. maybe more so because you are traveling so fast. the fact i see this every day -- i have to just stop and just
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take it in and just make sure that i'm really appreciating how lucky i am to get to be here every day. the canyon has been forming for about a million years or so. the bulk of the formation has happened in the last 100,000 years. it runs from here down close to the town of silverton. so you can make a really good case that the canyon is at least 80 miles in length. the river is probably 120 miles that flows through it. it's the second largest canyon in the united states after the grand. it's not a single canyon. there's many that branch off to the sides. we're standing in an area where you can see three canyons. it's a bigger system than people realize from a brief visit to the state park. >> i grew up here in amarillo. as a young kid, i remember coming out elementary school and then after that, as soon as i got my driver's license, i was driving out here and bringing
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friends. we would explore caves. some of the caves are just down there. i can tell you, it's much bigger than what you think it is from just looking up here. when you actually get down into the canyon and you actually get your hiking stick and your boots on and you better make sure you have a lot of water. it's farther than you think. there's all kinds of treasures out there that we have been searching out for. one of the draws is just being around extreme nature. you could say this is extreme nature. so there's so many places out here you can go up to and see beautiful cliffs, these beautiful rock croppings. back when i was growing up, the only footage you had from the air out here were helicopter shots that local television stations would do and things like that. of course, when the drones got popular several years ago, of course, i had to be right there. i'm a gadget guy is another one of my shortcomings. i have to have the latest
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gadgets. of course, i had my drone out here. it was just amazing. it helped so much, i guess, having all the experience and knowledge of where to go to look at these things from spending my life looking from the ground up. i knew where to go. i knew oechl aexactly all the p wanted to go to get the view from the air down. i went and executed as many as i could. there's so many places out here. you can stay on the trail and be suitably amazed with everything you see. there's plenty to look at and take photos of and experience. there's so many other places that are just off the trail. >> powder canyon is sort of a story of edges. we're on the edge of a lot of different ranges for plants and animals here. we're on the edge literally of a canyon right now. tea a place on the edge of the
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battles, these conflicts between different cultures, on the edge of the cultures, for the vast majority of the history of this area and the canyon, the people that came here were nomadic. they didn't build permanent structures. we don't have anything permanent. they lived in temporary structures they could move with them as they traveled. they were following large game. in the earliest days that was very large now extinct bison. even later than that, we get into historic or late prehistoric period when they were more like sort of your typical image of what you think of when you think of native americans. this was the southern plains region. the native american tribes that were here were can a omanche a a
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apache. they were trying to escape from soldiers, hunters, people taking their land. because this was right in the center of comanche territory, it was hard to get to. of course, the native americans had thousands of years of knowledge of this area and the people coming into the area didn't. they used this as strongholds to try to escape. there was a series of battles in 1874 that became known as the red river war. the most decisive battle was the one we call the battle of paladuro which happened in september of 1874. basically, the comanche, some others set up a winter camp like they had done for years on the floor of the canyon. they were under the mistaken impression they would be safe, left alone in the canyon that winter. they didn't realize that the government had set five columns of troops into the area to look
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for them, to root them out and force them back on the reservations in oklahoma. the 4th cavalry discovered the encampment. early in that month, they dismounted their horses, they led them down into the canyon floor and then they remount and charged into the massive village of mixed native americans. it's not a battle that had a high casualty count. it's more of a route. imagine waking up and you are laying there with your wife, your husband, your aunt, your grandmother, your children, all these people are with you. you wake up to armed soldiers attacking your town. what would you do? they did the only thing they could, which was to flee. they ran, setting up pockets of resistance to try to hold off the sou
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the soldiers to escape. most were successful in getting away. in their flight, they weren't able to take very much with them. that gave the 4th cavalry the opportunity to destroy their winter encampment, supplies. they destroyed the bulk of their horse herd which was the way of life. that's how you traveled, that's how you fought, hunted. that was a big blow to their way of life to lose their not only winter encampment but horse herd as well. the bands trickled back into the reservation and that ended their way of life. in a couple years, a new group came in. they saw the opportunity of the empty place, empty of people, and those were ranchers. the first one here to set up a permanent cattle ranch was charles goodnight. he arrived here in 1876 and started a ranch that would be the j.a. ranch. it grew through the 1880s and was about 1.3 million acres at its largest. it was one of the bigger ranches in texas, not the biggest but a
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big one. a lot of that encompassed parts of the canyon behind us. this was great grazing land for bison. it worked great for cattle they brought in. the ranching period in this spot where we are standing lasted until 1933. from 1876 to 1933 this was a working cattle ranch. in 1933, through a bond, the state of texas purchased about 15,000 acres that became the original state park. the people of this area had a really strong desire to have a park here. prior to this being a park, if you didn't know someone who owned some of the land, you had to trespass to go out and see it. it was privately owned. the landowner here had some events where they allowed people to come out on the property and visit the canyon. sometimes tens of thousands of people would show up in the 1920s and '30s to see it. just a huge drive for not only the people of the town of canyon, our closest, amarillo,
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which is close, but other cities wanted a park here because they knew not only how important this place was to protect but also how big of a boon to the area it would be to have people coming from all around to see it. the ranching continues all around us. we are this little pocket of public land that people can visit that's part of what makes it so special. we would not have a park here if it wasn't for the civilian conservation corps. they were a new deal relief effort, one of the many groups started by president roosevelt in the 1930s in response to the great depression. they arrived here very shortly after the creation of the ccc, they arrived here, one of the oldest parks in texas and across the nation, one of the earliest ccc projects. they got here in the summer of 1933 and set up their camp. one of the first projects they worked on was the road into the canyon. you can't build the rest of the structures and the facilities until you have access to it. it's a reminder i give myself
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all the time when i come through the canyon, when i'm driving down in my work, that they built this road by hand. basically for $30 a month, a dollar a day. it changed their lives in that they were able to feed themselves and provide for their families. they learned a lot that served them later in life. it provides for us today because we have so many amazing historic structures. the road into the canyon. without their work, we would not have everything we have today. >> you know, being up here in the texas panhandle, there's not a lot of written history. there's not a lot of history that you can go back to and actually look at. this is one of those places that you can go back and look at some of the history. you have the mortar stones. there's a rock that has indian art from probably 1,000, 2,000 years ago. you can still go to.
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it looks -- i'm sure it's not as vivid back in the day. but it's still pretty vivid. i like that connection of being able to look at history that's more than just your grandfather's history. >> texas state parks, all across the nation, national parks, these are your public lands. we want people to visit them and join us in our mission of stewardship of these places. we are here as care taketakers e lands for other people. i ask school kids, who owns this canyon? they almost always say, me, i do. you do. it would be cool if i did. but i don't. this belongs to the people of texas or the people of the nation, the people. world. so we want them to come here and see this. we want them to understand how critical they are to the mission of stewardship of this place. >> with ccc camps in every state from 1933 to 1942, the program
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employs 3 million out of workmen with the average worker making $30 a month. another new deal program is the farm security administration, created in 1937. with the intent of combating rural poverty, it becomes famous for its photographic collection documenting the depression. made up of over 175,000 images, some of the most iconic are by fsa employee dorothea lange. >> she made some of the most recognized photographs in the world. her migrant farm worker photographs from the great depression, migrant mother being the one that pretty much everyone has seen and a symbol of the great depression. the grapes of wrath, woody guthrie, woody's music, ste
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steinbeck's literature and lange's photographs that created the image and mental picture that we have in our minds for the great depression. one of her favorite sayings was that a camera is an instrument that teaches us how to see without a camera. that's what she was all about. she grew up in hoboken, new jersey and new york city and had childhood polio which left her with a withered leg that she always credited with helping to make sherr noher non-threatenin she put it one of the walking wounded. a subject matter she was interested in being she could approach people and that combined with the fact she was a small stature, she was non-threatening and perceived at not someone invasive when she was photographing them. she started as a toeenager she decided she was going to be a photographer. with her best friend at the age of 18 began what was to have
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been an around the world tour that got as far as san francisco when all their money was stolen. they were forced to stay. she got a job at the local photo finishing counter. fell in with the bohemian community of san francisco. found a backer to open her own portrait studio. it's an interesting story. it's not at all what we think of her work. we have thousands of negatives from -- and prints from her portrait studio dazys. she was high end. if you wanted a portrait more artistic, you would end up in her studio usually. when the depression came along, she ended up with a lot of time on her hands, like a lot of people. not a lot of excess income to spend on photographs. she's sitting around her studio. the way she told the story of
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how she got involved with social documentary photography was looking out her window one day and seeing these unemployed men just sort of out of her studio window aimlessly wandering around san francisco. she said, if i'm going do this, i have do it now. she grabbed her camera. she used the phrase, i went out in the blind staggers. this is a photograph called white angel bread line that she took in 1933. the reason it's called that is because there was a san francisco society woman named the white angel. she paid to have this soup kitchen established on the san francisco waterfront. it's one of lange's masterpieces. i love the fact it was made on the very first trip she made out of the studio on the streets of depression torn san francisco. she went out with her brother because she was a little frightened of all these angry
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potentially hungry men out there. she found she was welcomed. came back with this photograph that almost didn't manage to make it. she had an assistant at the time, who became a really well-known architectural photographer, who was developing her negatives for sheher. she gave him the film holders and told him to develop it. don't worry about this one, there's nothing in that holder. he took them into the dark room. thought, i better check, turn off the light and make sure there's no film in here. he pulled the dark slide out and there was a piece of film in there. it was this white angel bread line. if it hadn't been for his caution, we wouldn't have this photograph. it's great because having the negative collection that we do here, we can see the photographs that she took before and after this leading up to the photograph. you can see right from the beginning of her documentary work, she had this tendency to
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take multiple images getting closer until she was just capturing whatever was essential about the photograph and the image. that was usually what ended up being the best photograph. it's fascinating about this is that you notice even there's one face in the photograph. his eyes are not visible. it's shot from above, which makes him seem isolated. a little atypical of the work she did for the government during the depression photographing migrant farm workers. she was famous for shooting workers from below, which gave them stature and dignity they wouldn't have had otherwise. her photographs generally speaking are -- tend to be nobling and not concentrating or despair and really making the case that these were resilient people that were going to make it, all they needed was a little hand.
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>> our cities tour travels the country exploring the american story. with the support of local cable providers, we take you on a virtual tour of those places key to understanding our nation's history. to watch any of our videos, go to and follow us on twitter @cspancities. tonight at 8:00 eastern, from american history tv's lectures in history series, a professor teaches a class debunking some of the myths surrounding rosa parks and the 1955 busb boycott. american history tv on c-span3, exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend. coming up this weekend, saturday, at noon eastern on the
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presidency, former white house curator william aulman on the 1962 white house tour with first lady jacqueline kennedy and the white house collections. at 6:00 p.m. eastern, american civil war interpretation specialist carissa marken on fighters who became outlaws. sunday at 4:00 p.m. on reel america, the 1936 film, a national program in the tennessee valley, about two massive dam projects in tennessee and in alabama. exploring the american story, watch american history tv, this weekend on c-span3. the c-span cities tour travels the country exploring the american story. since 2011, we have been to over 200 communities across the nation. as with many americans, our staff is staying close


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