Milwaukee to Racine, Wisconsin Great American Railroad Journeys


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Milwaukee to Racine, Wisconsin

Michael Portillo's journey from Minnesota to the Deep South continues. Michael is in Milwaukee, home of an American icon - the Harley-Davidson.


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LineFromTo

I have crossed the Atlantic to ride the railroads of North America

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with my reliable Appleton's guide.

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Published in the late 19th century,

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my Appleton's general guide to North America will direct me

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to all that's novel, beautiful,

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memorable and striking in the United States.

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THEY SHOUT

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As I journey across this vast continent,

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I'll discover how pioneers and cowboys conquered the West

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and how the railroads tied this nation together,

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helping to create the global superstate of today.

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My rail journey across America's Midwest

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has brought me to Lake Michigan.

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At the time of my Appleton's guide,

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the United States was at the forefront of a global second Industrial Revolution

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featuring steel, chemicals and heavy engineering.

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Railroads and steamships tied the markets of the world together.

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The cities of the Great Lakes supplied the ingredients for success -

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a transport hub, innovation and manual labour.

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I started my journey in Minnesota, in the Twin Cities, and travelled

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alongside the Mississippi River

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before crossing into Wisconsin at La Crosse.

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Now I'm bound for the shores of Lake Michigan at Milwaukee,

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from where I'll turn south to the Windy City, Chicago,

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before travelling the length of Illinois, calling at Centralia.

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I'll then rejoin the Mississippi

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before ending in Memphis, Tennessee.

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This time, I'm making my way east to explore Wisconsin's largest city -

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Milwaukee.

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From here, I'll head south, 30 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan,

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ending my journey in Racine.

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I taste the freedom of the American open road...

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Ready to ride? I'm ready to ride.

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..I'm bowled over by Milwaukee's charms...

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CHEERING

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..and learn how innovation delivered a fuel injection...

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And a little bit of gas.

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..to 19th-century farming.

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By the time of my Appleton's,

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the railways had already helped to establish communities in the Midwest.

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Now these communities were transforming America.

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My first stop will be Milwaukee, which Appleton's tells me

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is the commercial capital of Wisconsin and next to Chicago,

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the largest city in the Northwest,

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situated on the west shore of the lake at the mouth of the Milwaukee River.

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As railroads linked up with waterways,

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technology supplied jobs for this city of motivated immigrants.

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MAN OVER PA: The entire crew would like to thank you all very much

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for travelling with us.

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Your final stop - downtown Milwaukee.

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The railroad first reached Milwaukee in 1851.

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I enjoyed the ride, thank you so much.

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Thank you. Bye-bye. Bye.

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But my Appleton's reminds readers that this city

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is also the best harbour

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on the south or west shore of Lake Michigan,

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the third largest of America's Great Lakes.

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There is no hope of seeing across Lake Michigan

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to the opposite shore - it is far too vast.

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To Europeans like me, these Great Lakes seem like seas

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and they are an important part of the making of America.

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These enormous bodies of water, joined together,

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enabled people and goods to travel vast distances through them in

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the days before the railroads.

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The Milwaukee that greeted the Appleton's traveller

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had a distinctive appearance.

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Apparently, the peculiar cream colour of the Milwaukee brick gives

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the city a unique and pretty appearance

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and has earned for it the name the Cream City of the Lakes.

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Despite Milwaukee's genteel architecture,

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at the time of my guidebook, it was a proudly blue-collar city.

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Appleton's tells me that manufactures here are extensive

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and embraced pig iron, iron castings, machinery and wheels.

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Give me a pair of wheels!

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A few decades after my guidebook was published,

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Milwaukee's mechanical ingenuity gave birth to an American icon.

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The motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson was founded here

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and remains a symbol of the United States' freewheeling,

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pioneer spirit.

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Hello, Bill. Hello, Michael.

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How are you? What a wonderful machine!

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Thank you so much.

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So, you are Bill Davidson, as in Harley-Davidson.

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What's the connection?

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Well, my great-grandfather was one of the original founders of the company,

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William A Davidson was his name, and we are literally within...

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several yards of where that original factory shed was,

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and that was in the back yard of my great-great-grandparents.

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Did motorbikes exist when Harley and Davidson got going?

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Yes. There were motorcycles.

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In the late 1800s, there was actually a steam-powered motorcycle.

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Quite a contraption.

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There were a lot of different people working in this arena of

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trying to develop a motorcycle.

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Childhood friends William S Harley and Arthur Davidson

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dreamed of building a winning design.

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They enlisted the help of Arthur's older brothers,

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who had experience in Milwaukee's railroad workshops.

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And, in 1903, they rolled serial number one out of that shed.

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Given that there was so much competition,

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how did Harley and Davidson get their break, do you think?

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Very early on, they created a unique look,

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the unique sound and they created a unique feel.

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You know, it's a magnet, it pulls you in.

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When you see a Harley, people actually say,

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even if they don't ride,

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they will say, "Nice Harley!"

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I wonder if it's something to do with the shape of your continent.

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It is vast.

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Is that part of it? It's the invitation to the Easy Rider.

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You know, it might be that Wild West feeling,

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that little bit of rebel in all of us, right?

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Bill, happy riding to you.

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Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

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Today, there are plenty of magnificent machines on display

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at one of Milwaukee's regular biker gatherings.

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Hello, ma'am. Hi, sir. Would you mind switching on the engine for me?

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Let me hear the sound of your bike.

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ENGINE TURNS ON

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I can't hear it!

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ENGINE ROARS

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I heard it.

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Thank you very much.

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Where do you ride your bike to?

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Actually, I came from Saudi Arabia.

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No! Yeah.

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Do you feel a companionship with other Harley riders?

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Yeah, sure. Why?

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Because we are a biker relationship between ourselves.

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Biker is always brotherhood, you can't buy it.

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Enjoy your biking. Thank you.

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Hey! I love them pants you've got on! Oh!

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You're so sweet.

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How nice to see you.

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I'd get away with those pants. I like that.

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And who's this you've got on the back here? This is my mini me.

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Your mini me? Yeah, she has travelled the 48 states with me.

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You've been through 48 states? In 27 days.

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So, tell me, what's it all about? You feel free.

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It is like a therapy for me.

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The moment I got on the bike, it was like, whoa!

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You know?

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It's just... It's therapeutic, truly.

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Have...? Do you ride motorcycles? I can ride you here.

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You could? I could. So, you know what it is to ride on this seat?

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Do you know what it's called?

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Pillion? No, it's called riding bitch.

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So, you'll be riding as my bitch!

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It's a privilege.

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That's right, it's definitely a privilege!

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You'll be pleased to hear that I don't have to leather up.

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Ready to ride? I'm ready to ride. OK.

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I have joined a brotherhood and a sisterhood of people

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linked by their choice of motorbike.

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Back in 1879,

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Milwaukee was one of the powerhouses of America's Industrial Revolution.

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It was the plentiful immigrant workforce that enabled the United States

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to lead the world in manufacturing.

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As my guidebook tells me,

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Milwaukee's population growth has been very rapid and,

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in this downtown district, there is evidence of one group of newcomers.

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Appleton's tells me that Germans constitute nearly half the population.

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Their influence is everywhere - breweries, beer saloons, gast haus,

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music halls and restaurants.

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One hears German spoken as often as English,

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but what ideas did they bring?

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I'm making my way to Turner Hall,

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which was a focal point for Milwaukee's 19th-century German community.

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History professor Aims McGuinness

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has been a so-called Turner for eight years.

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It's great to be here. It's an...intriguingly historic building.

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I mean, for example, what's that?

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This is a monument to members of the Turners who died fighting for

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the union during the Civil War in the United States.

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The centrepiece of this beautiful building is its imposing ballroom.

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Aims, there is a wonderful faded grandeur to the hall.

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What have been its uses over the years?

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This was a place to have political debates, to read books,

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to listen to a lecture, to listen to Beethoven

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and also to hoist a beer and to build your muscular strength.

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All those things went together for the Turners and, for us, they still do.

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What was the origin of the Turners?

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The Turners originated in Prussia,

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in what's now Germany, in the early 1800s.

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The founding principles were

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the notions of a sound mind and sound body.

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Founder Friedrich Ludwig Jahn

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named his movement after the physical exercises

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he devised that he called Turnen.

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Today, this word still means gymnastics in German,

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but Turnerism went far beyond sport.

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In order to become a Turner,

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one must commit oneself to the cause of liberty

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and to oppose tyranny in all its forms.

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In Europe, the principal form of tyranny

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to which they imposed themselves was monarchy.

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When they came to the United States,

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it was the institution of slavery that they opposed.

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Many Turners fled Prussia for America

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after participating in a failed revolution in 1848.

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Soon, Turners defended their new nation's founding principle

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of liberty with their lives, marching into battle

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with the Union Army in the American Civil War.

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Do you think then that the Civil War monument that we just saw

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had a real significance in demonstrating their patriotism?

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Oh, I think absolutely.

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In some ways, a monument created in the early 20th century in German

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commemorating people who had sacrificed their lives for freedom

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in the United States wasn't so much a provocation, and the message is,

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"Look, one does not need to speak English at all times in order to be a patriotic American,

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"one can speak German as well."

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And who will tell these people that they are not fully patriotic?

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They've sacrificed their lives for the nation.

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German influence on the modern United States

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was suppressed during two world wars,

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but the principle of sound body, sound mind lives on here.

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Stretch your legs as far as you can.

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Try and reach your ankles.

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What?!

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How do you do that? Well, I'm a woman.

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I can only hope that my tight hamstrings

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aren't a sign of an inflexible intellect

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as I join the weekly Ladies Auxiliary exercise class

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under the guidance of Nora.

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Arms over your head.

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Up.

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MICHAEL GROANS

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Try to keep your elbows straight.

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MICHAEL GROANS

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Bend...and down.

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These ladies are giving me an enormous work-out.

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OK. Now get up any way you can.

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Whoo!

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In the 1880s, Milwaukee was known as the nation's watering hole.

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German immigrants brought with them a taste for beer

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and my Appleton's tells me the breweries are large and numerous.

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Pints of Pilsner were the perfect accompaniment to another German gift to Milwaukee - bowling.

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I'm calling in at Holler House bowling alley,

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one of the oldest in the country,

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run for the past 62 years by the redoubtable Marcy.

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Hello! Hi.

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Marcy, do you serve beer here?

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Do I serve beer? Yeah.

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Well, what the hell do you think I'm here for? Exactly!

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Could I have a Milwaukee beer, please?

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Sure. There you go.

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You bowl? I used to.

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I bowled until I was 70 years old, but now I'm 90.

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You are 90? Yeah.

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Wow! Are you going to show me the basics of how to bowl?

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I show you how to bowl? Yeah, sure. Sure, what the hell?

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American ten-pin bowling evolved from traditional European skittles.

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What kind of fingers have you got?

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Erm...stubby ones. This should fit you.

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OK. OK.

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Like that, yeah? Now what?

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Now, see that middle arrow?

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Yeah. Throw it towards that one.

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Do it for the team, Mike!

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CHEERS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

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Whoa!

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The pin boy here is human, not mechanical.

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CHEERING

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Hello.

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19th-century Milwaukee might seem to have been a macho kind of place,

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but it wasn't all beer,

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bowling and bikers at the time of my Appleton's guide.

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While I'm in the city,

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I want to look into a small appliance

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that altered forever both the office and the home -

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a certain inventive Milwaukee type was key to the development.

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I've come to the Milwaukee Public Museum to track down

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the history of the typewriter.

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In street scenes that would have been familiar to an Appleton's traveller,

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I'm meeting curator Al Muchka.

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Very good to see you. Good to see you, too.

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Why is Milwaukee important in the development of the typewriter?

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Well, Milwaukee is important because of Christopher Latham Sholes.

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He was one of our local residents, he was an inventor, a newspaperman,

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and he was working on an addressing device for his newspapers,

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first by looking at how to transmit the action

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of the finger to a letter on the page -

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and we can take a look at that right here.

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That is an extraordinary thing because, to me,

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it resembles a piano much more than it does a typewriter.

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Well, this is one of the early models.

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We believe this is about 1868.

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The idea was that you would strike a key, like a piano,

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and it would actuate across these bars,

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which were then tied to a tower with rods and actuators

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that would actually bring the type piece up to strike the paper.

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Incredibly inventive.

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But now, this suddenly begins to look like a typewriter.

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What is this? This is an 1870s version of the Sholes typewriter.

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So what we have here is a refinement.

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The biggest thing here is, by this time,

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they actually developed the Qwerty keyboard

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that we are familiar with today.

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So why do we have Q-W-E-R-T-Y at the beginning of our keyboard?

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Well, it has to do with the arrangement of the rods

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and all of the little connections inside of the machine.

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If you put it in a regular alphabetic order,

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things tend to cross or letters next to each other will catch on each other.

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That is extraordinary.

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I mean, I have here, obviously, a 21st-century mobile phone,

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it has a Qwerty keyboard,

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and you're telling me that

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the origin of that was a mechanical difficulty that,

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way back in the 19th century, Sholes was trying to solve.

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That's exactly right.

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It was established in the 1870s and it lives with us today.

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Sholes' design went into mass production

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after he won the backing of the Remington company.

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The Remington No 1 went on sale in 1874.

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It became the world's first commercially successful typewriter.

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Sholes had used his daughter Lillian to demonstrate his earlier devices

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and Remington continued to market its newfangled contraptions to women.

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Al, these are...

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wonderful objects and literally beautiful.

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This is one of the original Sholes and Glidden machines.

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It's painted and decorated this way because of the Remington company.

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So the idea was that,

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if the scary typewriting machine was decorated in a similar way

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to an object that's already in your home, you'd be more apt to use it,

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especially for women.

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Their manual dexterity was considered to be superior to that of men,

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so they were really desired as typists.

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By 1888, there were 60,000 typists across America

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and most of them were women.

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Were women typists reasonably well paid?

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Your average clerk at the time was making about $9 a week.

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An experienced typist could make $20 a week.

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That was an incredible amount of money at the time.

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So the typewriter, an object that I very much take for granted,

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had a huge impact on business, a huge impact on society, too.

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That's exactly right.

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I'm bidding Milwaukee farewell

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and following my Appleton's 30 miles south.

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The book tells me that the tracks run along the west shore of Lake Michigan

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through a rich farming region.

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Farmers played a vital role in 19th-century urbanisation

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and industrialisation.

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I'm heading for Racine, Wisconsin, the second city of the state,

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pleasantly situated on a plateau

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projecting about five miles into the lake.

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Manufactures are the chief source of the city's prosperity.

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Today's researchers will produce a combined harvest

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of mechanisation and agriculture.

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TRAIN HORN BLARES

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I'm on the case of a man who knew how to sort

0:23:130:23:16

the wheat from the chaff.

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Case IH Agriculture is now a global brand.

0:23:250:23:29

Marketing manager Juliann Ulbrich knows how the story began.

0:23:290:23:33

Juliann, hi.

0:23:350:23:37

Hi. I'm Michael.

0:23:370:23:38

Nice to meet you. What a wonderful place this is.

0:23:380:23:41

What an extraordinary collection of historic artefacts.

0:23:410:23:44

Now, your founder had the wonderful name Jerome Increase Case.

0:23:440:23:49

Tell me about him. Yeah.

0:23:490:23:51

So we often call him JI Case for short

0:23:510:23:54

and he was actually born in New York state.

0:23:540:23:58

He was a very bright young man

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and saw a lot of opportunity to make the farmers' life a lot easier.

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And so, in 1842, JI Case headed west to Wisconsin,

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the perfect place to turn his ideas into big business.

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The Midwest at that time was the big breadbasket of the United States

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and where industry meets agriculture.

0:24:200:24:23

Right here, you have the Great Lakes, rail hubs,

0:24:230:24:28

so that you can transport both equipment

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and the grain that you needed to feed the large population out east.

0:24:310:24:37

This looks like the oldest piece in your collection. Tell me about that.

0:24:370:24:40

Yeah, so this is a threshing machine from the 1860s.

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It beats the wheat to separate the straw from the grain.

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Before you had this machine, how was that process undertaken?

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You would have farmers doing this by hand with flails, beating the grain.

0:24:510:24:57

This was a huge improvement.

0:24:570:24:59

In the 1840s, when JI Case started the business,

0:24:590:25:03

about three quarters of the American population was involved in farming.

0:25:030:25:07

It was extremely labour-intensive.

0:25:070:25:10

But the threshing machine and other mechanisation,

0:25:100:25:13

it greatly reduced the number of people that had to be tied to the land.

0:25:130:25:18

So, by the 1870s, it was only about half of the population.

0:25:180:25:24

The Industrial Revolution was largely enabled by the advances in

0:25:240:25:28

agriculture and mechanisation on the farms.

0:25:280:25:31

At the time of my guidebook,

0:25:330:25:35

JI Case's company was growing

0:25:350:25:37

and diversifying into all manner of farm equipment.

0:25:370:25:40

And some of their world-famous tractors are still made here

0:25:420:25:46

in Racine at the rate of roughly one every 20 minutes.

0:25:460:25:49

Jerome Increase Case was probably aptly named because

0:25:510:25:56

the business has mushroomed,

0:25:560:25:58

not only in the size of the production line,

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but in the size of the vehicles.

0:26:010:26:04

Just look at these jumbo tractors!

0:26:040:26:07

Plant manager Nate Burgers

0:26:100:26:12

has agreed to let me test drive a brand-new, six-cylinder,

0:26:120:26:16

280 horsepower tractor.

0:26:160:26:19

All right, so this is the final product here,

0:26:190:26:21

so let me show you how to get inside this.

0:26:210:26:23

Feel free to step right up there.

0:26:230:26:25

I'm in.

0:26:270:26:29

All right. Lovely, comfortable machine, actually.

0:26:290:26:33

ENGINE STARTS

0:26:340:26:36

Perfect.

0:26:360:26:37

And a little bit of gas.

0:26:470:26:49

Yeah. Can I put a little bit of gas? Go ahead, get it going.

0:26:490:26:52

The latest Magnum tractor rolls off the line,

0:26:560:26:59

a tribute to Jerome Increase Case.

0:26:590:27:02

German Turners arrived in Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan,

0:27:170:27:20

spreading a message of physical and mental fitness,

0:27:200:27:24

perhaps contributing to an ideal workforce

0:27:240:27:27

for America's second Industrial Revolution.

0:27:270:27:30

Threshing machines made by JI Case contributed to the mechanisation

0:27:300:27:35

of the countryside and the urbanisation of the population.

0:27:350:27:39

Whilst Sholes typewriters ushered women into office jobs.

0:27:390:27:44

But the city has achieved international attention thanks to

0:27:440:27:48

Harley-Davidson, perhaps America's most iconic machine.

0:27:480:27:53

Next time, I make a few announcements...

0:27:560:28:00

2.58, your train's never late!

0:28:000:28:03

..strike out in America's national game...

0:28:030:28:06

There we go. You're looking like a natural already.

0:28:060:28:09

..and I'm blown away by the Windy City.

0:28:090:28:12

Chicago - surely one of the world's most stunning cities?

0:28:120:28:15

Before I met you, I was a civilised woman.

0:28:500:28:52

Now I don't even know what that means.

0:28:540:28:56

Fear makes animals of us all.

0:28:570:28:59

Would the defendant please stand? What have I done?

0:29:020:29:05

Michael Portillo continues his journey from the northern state of Minnesota to the Deep South.

Michael is in Milwaukee, located on the shore of Lake Michigan and home of the Harley-Davidson. Michael learns about the history of motorcycles there, the first of which was made in 1903, and hitches a ride on the back of a modern version.

German gymnastics is Michael's next challenge as he joins the Ladies' Auxiliary Exercise Class, a legacy of Milwaukee's 19th-century German settler community which is still going strong today.

In Racine, Michael discovers a man who knew how to sort the wheat from the chaff and made a business out of it.