This series explores the stories behind historic sites, artifacts and tall tales told in cities across the country, with the help of an inquisitive team of fact-finders with an uncanny talent for uncovering the truth.
History Detectives Previous Broadcasts
Arthur Szyk's Earliest Cartoons/Professor Lowe's Hot Air Balloon/Chemical Warfare Map (Episode #303)
KQED World: Fri, Dec 28, 2012 -- 6:00 AM
* Arthur Szyk's Earliest Cartoons - A Polish-American art collector in Southern California came across four striking drawings while browsing an online auction. He believes they bear a remarkable resemblance to the work of one of America's most influential political cartoonists, Arthur Szyk. HD investigates whether these drawings are some of the earliest known works of the man whose illustrations helped persuade America to fight the Nazis in World War II and whom Eleanor Roosevelt described as "a one-man army against Hitler."
* Professor Lowe's Hot Air Balloon - A collector from Midland, Michigan, may have purchased a fragment of American aviation history. At first glance, it's a simple piece of frayed material in a frame. But on the back of the frame are the words, "A piece of Prof. Lowe's Aeronautical balloon `Enterprise'... after it was destroyed upon landing ... in 1862." Could this be an artifact from the dawn of American military airpower? HD reveals more about the ambitious and fascinating professor who launched the country's first aeronautic division by inflating his hot air balloon, the Enterprise, on the lawn of President Lincoln's White House.
* Chemical Warfare Map - A San Antonio, Texas, resident inherited a map of a World War I French battlefield from her grandfather, an engineer under General Pershing. The map is of St. Mihiel, where U.S. forces fought for the first time in Europe unaccompanied by French or British forces. The map also includes detailed warnings about what to do in the event of a gas attack. Could this be an authentic relic from this critical battle? HD sheds light on the origins of gas warfare and on a battle that helped pave the way for the Armistice.
- KQED World: Fri, Dec 28, 2012 -- 9:00 AM
Black Star Line Stock Certificates/Mickey Mouse's Origin/Pro-Nazi Newspaper in Texas (Episode #302)
KQED World: Fri, Dec 21, 2012 -- 6:00 AM
* Black Star Line Stock Certificates - A North Carolina woman recently found two Black Star Line stock certificates that had been purchased by her great grandfather in 1919. She didn't know the significance of the documents, but what looked like a Marcus Garvey signature on the papers saved them from the trashcan. Garvey founded the steamship company through his United Negro Improvement Association in 1919. Could this document be a rare artifact from Garvey's heyday? HD takes a closer look at this controversial and enigmatic figure who fought for economic self-reliance and political self- determination for African Americans.
* Mickey Mouse's Origin - Popular history has it that Mickey Mouse was born from a drawing sketched on a napkin by Walt Disney during a train ride from New York to Los Angeles in 1928. Mickey Mouse became the biggest fictional character moneymaker in the world, bringing in over $5.8 billion annually. A San Francisco toy collector, however, believes his small mouse figurine may turn the legend of Mickey on its ears. With a red label on its chest that reads "Micky" and a patent label on the bottom of one foot that says "Pat. Aug. 17, 1926, "the figure appears to have been produced two years before Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse. HD traces the ancestry of America's most famous mouse and sheds light on some of the earliest bare-knuckle business fights in the toy industry.
* Pro-Nazi Newspaper in Texas - A resident of Hearne, Texas, recently heard rumors that a German POW camp was based in her town during World War II. A tiny printing block from a pro-Nazi newspaper, discovered by a Texas A&M archaeologist, just may hold the key to this mystery. HD learns more about the history of POW camps in this country and reveals a hidden episode of violent wartime Nazism inside the United States.
- KQED World: Fri, Dec 21, 2012 -- 9:00 AM
Body in the Basement/Newport U-Boat/Shippen Golf Club (Episode #212)
KQED World: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 -- 6:00 AM
* Body in the Basement - While on a dig, "The Lost Towns of Anne Arundel County" Project unearthed a rather surprising discovery. Since 1991, this group of anthropologists has been studying a 17th-century settlement in Maryland that became the modern capital of Annapolis. While at work excavating a dwelling, the team uncovered a grizzly mystery: a skeleton in the basement. Was this an executed POW from an English Civil War battle deposited in the cellar of the house? Or maybe the body of a young man, murdered for his inheritance? Corey Seznec grew up on the land where the body was found and wants to know who this person was who preceded him by 350 years. With the expertise of the Lost Towns Team and a Smithsonian forensic anthropologist, the History Detectives set out to determine the identity of the skeleton and find out why it was buried in the basement.
* Newport U-Boat - Two Boston brothers have heard a rumor that two large propellers on the grounds of a hotel in Newport originally came from a German submarine that sank off the coast of Rhode Island at the end of WWII. The brothers are especially interested in the story because their father, who served in the Navy during the war, was killed when a U-boat sank his ship off the coast of Maine in 1945. The brothers want to know if the Newport propellers come from a submarine, and if so, whether or not they belong to the submarine that killed their father. HD travels to Rhode Island to investigate this case and discovers a remarkable story of cover-ups and conspiracies that could have changed the course of WWII.
* Shippen Golf Club - A Scotch Plains, New Jersey, children's golf foundation recently received a surprising donation, an antique golf club. More significant than its age was the rumor that the original owner was John Shippen Jr., who competed in the 1896 U.S. Open at Long Island's Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. The match - the second ever in America - was almost canceled due to the inclusion of Shippen, an African American. Hanno Shippen Smith would like to know if it is possible that this club belonged to his grandfather and if it is indeed a rare relic from that pivotal day in the career of this remarkable man. History Detectives Elyse Luray and Gwen Wright take on the case and discover a story of racial prejudice and the determination of one man to ignore the obstacle of color in the sport that he loved.
- KQED World: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 -- 9:00 AM
Charlie Parker Saxophone/Prison Plaque/Koranic School Book (Episode #211)
KQED World: Fri, Dec 7, 2012 -- 6:00 AM
* Charlie Parker Saxophone - A woman in Oakland, California, owns a beautiful old alto saxophone that belonged to her father and according to family legend was once owned by the legendary jazz musician Charlie "Bird" Parker. Her late father, a white musician, told her that when they lived in Portland, Oregon, Charlie Parker came to a practice session without his horn. The story goes that when her father chided Parker for selling his instrument, Bird said, "If you want the horn so much, here's the pawn ticket." But is the story true? Did these two musicians ever meet? Would Charlie Parker abandon his horn? HD investigates an original American art form and the life of a troubled musical genius.
* Prison Plaque - In the heart of Philadelphia stands the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary building. Founded by Quakers in 1829, this castle-like structure set new standards for prisons across the country with its progressive ideas for rehabilitation. Recently, a group in charge of preserving this historic structure found a strange plaque discarded in a pile of rubbish. Dusting it off, they found an intriguing inscription: "In the everlasting memory of the inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary who served in World War I." Even more intriguing is that fact that they are listed not by name, but by their prison numbers. From what they know, convicted felons were prohibited from enlisting or being drafted to fight in the war. Is this an example of the prison's progressive take on prisoner reform? Or is this a sign of desperate recruiting measures for the "war to end all wars," when even prisoners are being sent into battle? Tukufu Zuberi and Wes Cowan are on the case to get to the bottom of this mystery.
* Koranic School Book - A viewer in Mulvane, Kansas, owns a 200-year-old schoolbook with a startling secret. The book belonged to a young woman from Kentucky in 1800, but contains two translated passages of the Koran. What are they doing there? And how did this frontier farmer learn about Islam? Taking on this tough challenge, the detectives reach some startling conclusions about U.S. contact with the Muslim world and the story of Islam in America.
- KQED World: Fri, Dec 7, 2012 -- 9:00 AM