When we think of political reformers who took on the often corrupt and immense powers at play during The Gilded Age we rightly think first of Theodore Roosevelt. Yet this was a movement, albeit a slow-growing one, across both major political parties. At stake was the very purpose of government. Was it to serve business or the people? Or would serving business serve the people better than any government could? This remains very much an open question today.
Enter Boston mayor, Nathan Matthews, the reformer, and Frank Sprague, the inventor - each representing the best of both points of view. The first American subway could not have happened without both men, as this was the point where private enterprise alone could not solve a major civic problem.
Sadly, both men are largely forgotten now. Nonetheless, this was a turning point and, as this documentary so wonderfully illuminates, it involved wide-ranging cultural issues beyond politics and business. How unexpected it is that the creation of a city subway could make for such a splendid, emotionally involving and important story.