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Ken Burns Documentary : America’s First Road Trip (Vid-En)

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The year 1903 was a watershed year in America. That’s the year of the first manned flight, the first radio signal was sent across the Atlantic, and the first person to drive an automobile across the United States. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns brings to life a unique American story about a man that made a bet and won.

Horatio Nelson Jackson was a 31-year old doctor from Burlington, Vermont who made an impulsive wager at the University Club in San Francisco on May 19, 1903. For fifty dollars, he said he could drive across the country in less than three months. Something no one else had ever done. In 1903 America, outside of the major cities, there were no maps, gas stations or paved roads. It was hard to believe that anyone could drive a horseless carriage 5,000 miles coast to coast. But Horatio Jackson wagered that the new automobiles of the time weren’t mere novelties, but in fact, the future. He proved to America that the automobile was here to stay.

Burns and his crew logged 10,000 miles retracing Jackson’s route, often with their cameraman strapped to the front of their Chevy Suburban to get the trip’s perspective just right. Tom Hanks is the voice of Horatio Nelson Jackson. “Horatio’s Drive” airs this month, October 6 on PBS and is already available on video and DVD.