River of Steel
The story of the subway is the story of New York City. It is a story of powerful characters -- crooks and heroes, men of great vision and social conscience, as well as men whose vision went only as far as their own pockets. It is the story of how these entrepreneurs, politicians, social reformers, schemers and dreamers, with diverse motives, and acting in the context of a rapidly changing metropolis, produced a revolutionary system of public transportation.

River of Steel begins in the mid-1800's when the need for rapid mass transit was becoming critical. The film examines the first experiments with underground transportation, including the construction of a 312-foot pneumatic subway built in complete secrecy at the foot of City Hall. It tells of the wheeling and dealing that finally lead to ground-breaking for the IRT in 1900, continued with four hard years of digging and construction by 20,000 immigrant laborers, and culminated in the city-wide celebrations on opening day in 1904.

The story is told through remarkable archival film footage and photographs taken between the mid-1800's and 1905, including selections from over 60,000 early transit photographs available from the collections of the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, the Museum of the City of New York, the Library of Congress, and the New York City Transit Museum. Early film footage of New York at the turn of the century includes scenes of subway construction produced by Thomas Edison and shot by Edwin S. Porter.

As cities today struggle with the effects of crumbling infrastructures -- the disintegration of bridges and highways -- civic authorities struggle to maintain the level of vital services which sustain our economic and cultural life. At this time it becomes particularly important to look to the history of our great public works. River of Steel is a reminder of how one of this country's great civil engineering projects was born and nurtured, and the role it played in turning New York City into one of the greatest cities in America and the world.

River of Steel was produced and directed by Kerry Michaels and Stuart Math, and features narration by Anne Jackson and original music by Patrice Rushen.

32 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003

Copyright © 2011 Stuart Math Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved