U.S. History

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Grand Coulee Dam

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Explore how the conflict between industrialization and the preservation of natural resources played out in the creation of the Grand Coulee Dam in the 1930s in this video from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. The project was initially seen as a way to provide electric power and irrigation and to spur recovery from the Great Depression. Only later were the environmental consequences to the land and the people living there recognized and, in the latter case, given compensation. This resource is part of the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Collection.

Fusion: Testing the First Hydrogen Device

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The 1952 test of the first hydrogen device--code-named "Mike," for "megaton"--in the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands signaled a new era in weapons capabilities. The devastation presented in this video segment, adapted from American Experience: Race for the Superbomb, demonstrates just how foreboding the signal was. Watch what prompted then-United States president Harry Truman to speak publicly about the dangers ahead for a world in which such weapons existed.

American Experience | Grand Coulee Dam - Closing the Spillway

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In this video from American Experience, learn about the building the Grand Coulee Dam in the 1930's and 1940's, then the largest concrete structure ever built in the United States. It was essentially a large ditch that diverted water out of the Columbia River and fed the river to drier land to irrigate it. The water also moved turbines to generate electricity. But it destroyed the fishing areas of Native Americans. Hailed for its power to transform a region, it now serves as a reminder of the price of progress.

American Experience | The Hurricane of '38 : Hurricane of '38 Home Videos

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On Wednesday, September 21, 1938, a hurricane hit New England. There was no warning from the National Weather Bureau. In these home movies taken by three families affected by the storm, and compiled by American Experience, you will see the devastation to homes, trees, and the beach. Thousands of livestock were killed. Crops were flattened, farmers wiped out. Two hundred and seventy-five million trees were knocked down, including a third of Vermont's sugar maples, half of New Hampshire's white pines. But all this paled compared to Rhode Island -- 380 people dead, most in the beachfront towns.

Tuberculosis in America: Antibiotic Treatment of Tuberculosis

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Learn about the development of tuberculosis treatment in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Forgotten Plague: Tuberculosis in America. In 1943, Selman Waksman and Albert Schatz isolated the first effective antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis: Streptomycin. However, patients relapsed with infections from bacteria that were resistant to the drug. Scientists soon found that a combination of three antibiotics, when taken correctly, was very effective at curing tuberculosis. In spite of these discoveries, drug-resistant TB is becoming increasingly common. This resource is part of the American Experience collection.

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Student Handout | Transcript

Poppy Northcutt, NASA Pioneer | Chasing the Moon

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Learn how Poppy Northcutt overcame sexism and a “boys’ club” atmosphere to become the first female engineer in NASA’s mission control in the 1960s—a situation she describes as a “complete peculiarity” at the time—in this video adapted from Chasing the Moon: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Northcutt, a feminist, endured repeated interview questions that focused on her appearance rather than her qualifications. However, she used the platform to demonstrate that women could work outside of stereotypical jobs.

Sputnik’s Launch Begins the Space Race | Chasing the Moon

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Learn why the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 sent shock waves through the United States and kicked off the United States–Soviet Union “space race” rivalry in this video adapted from Chasing the Moon: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. As the public expressed its surprise over Sputnik, politicians and the media soon elevated the space race to a national security issue.

How Radar Changed the Course of World War II | The Secret of Tuxedo Park

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Learn how technological innovations developed by MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, or “Rad Lab,” helped tip the balance of World War II to the Allied forces, in this video adapted from The Secret of Tuxedo Park: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, hundreds of scientists and engineers rushed to develop an automated radar device to detect and track an enemy aircraft in flight. Microwave radar systems greatly improved the shooting accuracy of defensive weapons and were used to neutralize the German army’s fearsome V-1 rocket bombs.