by Pete Mazzaccaro
Sam Katz made a pitch for his ongoing series of films on the history of Philadelphia at last night’s annual meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. Katz as the night’s featured speaker.
Katz, a resident of Mt. Airy and three times a Republican candidate for mayor, talked up Philadelphia’s history and the 12-part series he is producing called “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.”
He showed several short “webisodes” from the film. One was a brief remembrance of Rep. William Green Jr., who is credited with helping John F. Kennedy win the Pennsylvania and the Presidency in his 1960 run for office. Another was a brief biopic of late Chestnut Hill resident Ernesta Ballard, who was instrumental in developing the Philadelphia Flower Show into an international event and was a national figure in the fight for equal rights for women.
The series, completed episodes of which have aired at 7:30 p.m. On 6 ABC, has been a challenge to fund and air, Katz told the crowd at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church.
“Timing has been my specialty,” Katz, joked. “When I started this project in August 2008, the wheels came off American economy’s bus, and there I was, ready to raise $5 million to fund a 12-part series on the history of Philadelphia.
“One thing I’ve always prided myself on is being totally self delusional. After all, I ran for office four times as a Republican in Philadelphia.”
Katz said that the emphasis of the film is to really refocus attention on Philadelphia’s history from colonial times to the city’s truly great period: the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Most of us have great pride in the history of our city, but we have falsely understood that pride to be about 1776 and the enormous assets that surround the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross house and all of those things that represents the Federal History of Philadelphia,” Katz said. “When Mr. (Chestnut Hill Community Fund trustee Moss) Disston was talking [Disston had made a presentation earlier in the evening], all I could think about was 19th century Philadelphia and the Disston Saw Mill, the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Cramp Shipyard and the Stetson Hat Company and the hundreds of thousands of people who worked in the factories of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods who made those neighborhoods so vibrant.”
Webisodes and more information about “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment”’ can be found at www.historyofphilly.com. The site also suggests ways people can support the project, which has completed three episodes and is currently producing its fourth, a series on the “Rizzo Years” of 1965 to 1978.