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The date is 1843; the occasion, the launch of the S.S. Great Britain. Bristol is alive with pageantry, awaiting the arrival of Brunel, the great engineer, and Prince Albert himself. The Stuckey men who helped build the ship now face hardship and unemployment, further humiliated by their womanfolk doing menial work for rich Clifton employers. Poor they may be, but Carrie Stuckey and her friend Elsie have their dreams. Into their lives comes John Travis, a man who represents everything Carrie could wish for but who manages to create conflict between them all.