It is 1902, Teddy Roosevelt is the President of the United States.
City Kew Rochelle, NY. In a fashionable avenue, lives a family in the house on the hill, lined by Norwegian maples - Grandfather, Father, Mother, the Little Boy, and Mother’s Younger Brother. Life of the family is full with spirituality and fanned goodness.
The Little Boy is extremely interested in Harry Houdini’s tricks. By chance Houdini appears in their house - on the road near the hill his car breaks down. But the failure is resolved, Houdini's going to leave. The Little Boy is standing beside the car and looks at his reflection in the copper spotlight. "Warn Archduke" - suddenly he says and runs away. Many years later, on the day of the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Houdini remembers this as the only true mystical event in his life.
A few days after this incident Father leaves for the polar expedition. In the ocean their ship meets transatlantic liner full of immigrants. This sight acts on father depressing. In fact, he himself never gets to the pole, because his left heel regularly freezes.
The immigrants: Mummy, Tateh and Baby live in a little room in the Lower East Side. All three work from morning till night. For an extra dollar Mummy yielded to her employer’s harassment. Tateh drives her away of the house and turns into a crazy white-haired old man because of the grief.
The famous model Evelyn Nesbit is involved in the trial of the murder of her former lover, architect Stanford White. The killer is her husband Harry Kay Fsou. This trial creates the first sex goddess in American history. One day, in obedience to a whim, she drives in poor neighborhoods and meets Tateh with Baby. But at a meeting of the Socialist-anarchist the speaker Red Emma Goldman reveals her incognito. Tateh horrified grabs Bady and disappears. Goldman takes Evelyn to her. Mother’s Younger Brother, who is secretly in love with Evelyn, follows them. When Goldman makes Evelyn massage, he suddenly falls out of the closet screaming. Evelyn takes him as her lover, but soon escapes from him with the next one. The trial of her husband ends up with Fsou’s departure to the hospital criminal psychiatry. His lawyers begin to negotiate a divorce. Evelyn has a cost - a million, but received only twenty-five thousand.
After the ill-fated rally Tateh with the Baby go aimlessly. During another change from tram to tram past them are going Mother and Little Boy. Children meet with their eyes and the Little Boy forever remembers the color of eyes: blue and green with yellow spots.
At this moment Theodore Dreiser suffers the failure of his first book "Sister Carrie". Sigmund Freud arrives in America to read a series of lectures. President of the United States becomes William Howard Taft. Artist Harry Houdini learns to fly in an airplane. Images of ancient Egypt capture all minds.
The great financier J. Pierpont Morgan invites Henry Ford, inventor of the assembly line, to his white marble library, built to accommodate books and works of art that Morgan buys worldwide. He expounds to Ford his theory of transcendentally gifted personalities. Ford admits the possibility of such a sacred origin. Subsequently, they establish an exclusive club, which finances certain searches. In New Rochelle Mother finds buried in the ground, but still live newborn Negro child. An hour later, in the basement of a house in the next block, the police find a very young black woman named Sarah. The mother leaves her baby in the house. Together with him sense of disaster settles in the house.
Tateh and Baby are now living in Lawrence, Massachusetts. For the Baby’s fun he makes the booklets from his silhouettes - such paper cartoons. In the textile factory where he works, the strike begins. The strike committee proposes Tateh to send Baby to Philadelphia. But at the moment of solemnly organized children’s departure police scatters the workers with shots. Tateh and Baby jump on the train. The strike won, but Tateh does not want to go to the factory. Wandering with him through the streets of Philadelphia, to the shop window of amusing toys draws Baby’s attention. Tateh immediately goes to the store owner, and makes a contract with him of the production of booklets. So Tateh’s life pours into the stream of American energy.
At home in New Rochelle appears Coalhouse Walker Junior – an elegant, confident black pianist. He comes every Sunday, makes Sarah a proposal, but she does not want to see him. One day he is invited into the house. At the request of the Father, he sits down at the piano, performs ragtime and conquers everyone with his game. Only in March, Sara finally agrees to marry him.
Mother’s Younger Brother runs now the department of fireworks of Father’s pyrotechnic company. His latest invention strongly resembles a bomb. He realizes that he can improve many types of weapons. Trying to find Evelyn Nesbit, he accidentally falls on the Congress in support of the Mexican Revolution, after which converges with Emma Goldman. Returning to New Rochelle he thinks to rush under the wheels of the train. The noise of the train reminds him of sounds ragtime - suicidal rag.
One Sunday at the fire station Coalhouse car’s is suddenly stopped up. Burgher Willie Conklin declares that is a private road. Coalhouse goes for the police, but they do not even consider it necessary to go to the scene. Returning, Coalhouse finds his "Ford T" broken. It requires washing and repairing the car. Police comes. The next day Father makes bail and Coalhouse is released. Father recommends him to turn to a lawyer. But none of the lawyers wants to help Coalhouse. White - because he's black, black – because he is rich. Sarah decides to protect her fiancé herself. But her cry out from the crowd, to meet Vice President Jim Sherman, attracts police attention. Father and Mother find Sarah in the hospital. Coalhouse does not leave her bed. By the end of the week Sarah dies from the beating. On the wedding money Coalhouse organizes her gorgeous funeral.
And so he goes on the warpath - explodes two fire stations. He leaves in the offices of the local newspaper letters requiring car repairing trial on Burgher Willie Conklin. The city starts to panic. All negros are hiding. The Father goes to the police and tells everything he knows about Coalhouse.
Mother’s Younger Brother from the beginning is on the side of Coalhouse. Having found his headquarters in the bowels of Harlem, he offers his help as a shooter. He shaves bold and paints face with burnt cork to be no different from young blacks – Coalhouse’s assistants.
Family moves to Atlantic City, away from these events. Mother is quite happy with its society. Foreigners seem to her more interesting than countrymen. There her view is attracted to the Baron Ashkenazy, a successful movie businessman. This is another turning of Tateh. Now his concern is that the Baby forgot all their sadness. Baby with Little Boy become inseparable friends. But Coalhouse’s story continues. Father is called to New York.
Coalhouse with his comrades enters the Morgan Library and threatens to destroy it. Library is mined. The police establishes headquarters in the building across the street. There comes the District Attorney of New York Charles Whitman Es. He understands that is involved in a politically dangerous case. Emma Goldman makes a statement in support of Coalhouse that is in the newspaper. The most famous black man of his time great educator Booker T. Washington, by contrast, condemns this action. Whitman asks Washington to use his authority to resolve the situation. Washington and Coalhouse talk among the great works of art and historical treasures. Coalhouse agrees to surrender, but the assistants should be released and Willie Conklin himself must repair the car.
Here comes a telegram from Morgan. Morgan demands to give the car and then hang Coalhouse. The car is pulled out of the pond. Father goes to the library as an intermediary and then remains as an official hostage. With amazement he meets there his brother in law, who is leaving safely at night with other colleagues on finally renovated "Ford T". After their departure Coalhouse asks the Father to tell him about his son, everything to the smallest detail. Two hours later Coalhouse goes out with his hands up. Police Detachment at point-blank shoots him.
Coalhouse’s companions give Mother’s Younger Brother the unfortunate "Ford." He goes to Mexico, where he takes part in the Mexican Revolution on the rebel side. As a result of his activities he is killed in a shootout by government forces.
Woodrow Wilson becomes the President of the United States. The Peace Palace opens in Hague. Vienna hosts conference of socialists. In Paris appear abstract artists. Morgan goes to Egypt to spend the night inside the pyramid and discover the essence of ancient philosophy. But he receives only a runny nose and bites of bedbugs. Soon he dies in Rome. Right after his death the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand happens. Harry Houdini, remembering the prophecy of the Little Boy, pays a visit to New Rochelle, but finds there nobody. The Grandfather has died. Mother, the Little Boy and Negro Child Coalhouse Walker the third are on the coast of Maine, where Mother is posing to the artist Winslow Homer. Father is in Washington negotiating on the introduction of new types of weapons, invented by Mother’s Younger Brother. In 1915 he goes to London on a British ship "Lusitania" with the first batch of grenades and bombs for allies. German submarine torpedoes the ship, and the Father dies. A year later Mother marries Tateh. They move to California. Film Business is doing well. Ragtime Era goes to the past.