Former mayoral candidate Sam Katz has been screening a pilot episode of his planned video history of Philadelphia, hoping to eventually make seven one-hour episodes.
Katz said he got interested in a Philadelphia history project after he was defeated by incumbent Mayor John Street in the 2003 mayor’s race.
“I thought I knew the city and I thought I knew its people,” Katz said. “And I realized after that election that I didn’t. And so this started out as an honest individual effort to find out who we were and how we got to be the way we are.”
Katz began reading the history of Philadelphia and other urban centers. When he realized there were good video histories of other cities, he decided that he would make Philadelphia’s.
He said Philadelphians are proud of their history, but tend to focus on the American Revolution.
“The city we live in today is a 19th century industrial city, and most of us knew very little about that history,” Katz said.
So he produced a half-hour pilot on the city’s growth and growing pains after the Civil War, exploring ethnic conflicts, the growth of local government, and its corruption by ruthless capitalists. You can hear an audio montage from the pilot in the audio clip above. It refers at the beginning to entrepreneur Peter Widener and his use of political connections to make a fortune in real estate and trolley cars.
Katz’s project is called “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.” He’s screening the pilot, hoping to generate buzz and raise money to expand it to a full hour, making it the first of seven planned episodes.
Katz is also producing digital content for the project’s website. There’s a local history of baseball narrated by Jimmy Rollins, and one on civil rights narrated by Mayor Michael Nutter, whom Katz has decided not to challenge in next year’s Democratic primary.