Philadelphia celebrates the Centennial of the USA with a spectacular World’s Fair in 1876. The merchant John Wanamaker captures the spirit of the times with his grand department store. He leads the effort to build a city within the city for the Fair, including the largest building in the world. As millions flock to the Centennial, it becomes a magnet for activists. Susan B. Anthony leads a group of women who disrupt the July 4th celebration at Independence Hall to advocate for women’s right to vote. Educator Caroline LeCount presses for the inclusion of Black Philadelphians in the planning process. The city bristles with ambition and aspiration, which manifest in the plans for a towering new City Hall. But as construction of City Hall drags on for decades, John Wanamaker worries that the soaring city he imagined will fall under the influence of a corrupt political machine.
Philadelphia: The Great Experiment is a multi-format historical documentary television film and Internet project that presents the story of Philadelphia, the single most compelling stage for the unfurling and testing of American ideals. William Penn’s city was the first in the world to codify freedom of religion, individual rights, trial by jury, and a democratic assembly as the pillars of a constitution amendable by the people.