History Detectives Previous Broadcasts

Episode #602

KQED 9: Fri, Mar 16, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* Red Hand Flag - During her last active duty posting with the Army at Ft. Jackson, a Desert Storm veteran from South Carolina learned about a local, all-but-forgotten African-American infantry regiment in WWI. Years later, she purchased a worn red-white-red striped flag with a red felted hand sewn in the center and small U.S. flags sewn in the corner. The contributor would like to know if her flag was carried into battle by one of the few African-American infantry regiments that fought in WWI under the command of the French. These unsung heroes of the Great War exhibited extraordinary heroism in battle and were highly decorated by the French. If this particular flag has French origins, though, why is it red-white-red-striped and not blue-white-red like the tricolor French flag? Elyse Luray heads to Columbia, South Carolina, to link this mysterious flag to the legacy of the Red Hand Division and its wartime triumphs.
* Seth Eastman Painting - A Decatur, Illinois, man purchased a painting that depicts a scene of traditional Native-American life. The contributor, a longtime student of the history of the American West, says the image appealed to him because it was strangely familiar, almost iconic in its imagery. The painting bears the initials "S.E." and the seller's Web page reads "Seth Eastman, American Painting, Oil on Canvas." Could this painting be an authentic work of artist and military officer Seth Eastman - and an accurate depiction of Native-American life in the mid-1800s? Tukufu Zuberi travels to historic Fort Snelling in Minnesota to examine how Eastman carried out government policies of Native-American removal while capturing on canvas what he believed was a doomed way of life.
* Isleton Tong - The president of the historical society in Isleton, California, has inherited a two-story wooden building with tin sides that she believes once housed a Chinese Tong. In the late 1800s, Chinese immigrants risked everything to start a new life in America. But Americans who feared losing jobs to the new, cheap labor turned the land of opportunity hostile. Chinatowns burned, ethnic slurs flew and Congress prohibited Chinese laborers from entering or working in the country. For outcast Chinese, Tongs were places of protection and solidarity during this time of chaos, where they could worship, study and settle legal disputes peacefully. In the newspapers, the Tongs were secretive centers of gangland warfare, opium deals and gambling. Was there a Tong operating inside Isleton's once-booming Chinatown? If so, what happened there? Gwen Wright heads to the Sacramento Delta and to San Francisco to unravel the mystery of the Chinese Tong.

Uss Thresher/Pete Gray Cartoon/Manhattan Project Letter (Episode #510)

KQED 9: Thu, Mar 15, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* USS Thresher - A contributor in Chicopee, Massachusetts, has a stack of technical drawings and engineering documents he found in his late great-uncle's basement some years ago. A few of the documents bear the numbers and letters SSN-593, an appellation that belonged to the nuclear submarine USS Thresher, an attack class vessel that had been the pride of the U. S. Navy during the Cold War. On April 10, 1963, the Thresher was undergoing deep-sea trials when, along with its nuclear reactor, the vessel and all hands sank 220 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. Gwen Wright travels to New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts to explore one of the most traumatic events in U.S. Naval history and to determine just how the contributor's great-uncle could've come into possession of documents linked to one of the most secret weapons in the U.S. Cold War arsenal.
* Pete Gray Cartoon - A comic book collector in Brooklyn, New York, owns several storyboards from a cartoon comic strip dating to the immediate post-World War II period. The strip relates the story of Pete Gray, the first one-armed major league baseball player, who later became an icon for disabled WWII veterans. The contributor is curious to learn the identity of the mystery cartoonist. Because many artists from the golden age of cartoons - the late 1930s through the 50s - often moonlighted in advertising or more "respectable" trades, their identities were often undisclosed. Elyse Luray heads to Baltimore's Camden Yards and to comics hot spots in New York City to examine how cartoon artists helped reframe popular culture in the mid-20th century.
* Manhattan Project Letter - A contributor in New York City has a scrapbook of typed and handwritten documents connected with the top-secret Manhattan Project, which developed the United States' first nuclear bombs during World War II. The most intriguing item is a letter dated just after the war. It's a plea for reduced secrecy regarding nuclear affairs in the scientific community once hostilities ended. Did the scientists' letter help persuade President Harry S. Truman to change policy in the post-war era? Host Wes Cowan leads HD to New York City to track down the authors of the documents and to explore the delicate balance between science, military power and democracy.

Bill Pickett Saddle/Mckinley Casket Flag/Hitler Films (Episode #509)

KQED 9: Wed, Mar 14, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* Bill Pickett Saddle - A Staten Island woman owns a well-worn saddle with the name "Bill Pickett" burned into it. She believes it was once owned by legendary cowboy Bill Pickett, an African-American Wild West Show and film star. Pickett invented bulldogging, the rodeo event now known as steer wrestling. His back story is perhaps most intriguing: Born to slave parents, Pickett rose to entertain kings and dignitaries on an international tour of his Wild West show; he counted among his friends Will Rogers and Tom Mix. Tukufu Zuberi heads to Oklahoma to visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, meets a real-life steer wrestler and talks with a 101 Ranch historian about the legacy of the legendary "Bulldogger."
* McKinley Casket Flag - A Battle Ground, Washington, man has a flag that he claims once draped the casket of President William McKinley. The 25th president was assassinated in 1901 at the Pan- American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. The contributor says the flag was given to his great-grandfather, Charles Kennedy, who served as McKinley's bodyguard. Wes Cowan travels to Cincinnati and Canton, Ohio, to investigate McKinley's legacy through the eyes of his supporters and his detractors.
* Hitler Films - A contributor in Staten Island, New York, has several film cans, unseen since World War II, that he believes may contain German home movies of Nazi officials, possibly even Hitler. He received them from his wife's uncle, a GI in Germany, who found the cans in the bombed ruins of the Old Opera House in the northern Bavarian town of Bayreuth. The first glimpse of one of these fragile reels reveals footage of Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and Himmler arriving at the Richard Wagner opera festival, staged annually in Bayreuth. In New York City, Gwen Wright examines this film's depiction of the Nazis' manipulation of art and culture to bolster the party's following.

Lincoln Letter/Quaker Map/U.S.S. Indianapolis (Episode #508)

KQED 9: Tue, Mar 13, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* Lincoln Letter - A Tampa man made a potentially extraordinary discovery in a stack of old photos he purchased for $8. Buried in the images was a letter with what appears to be the signature of Abraham Lincoln. It's dated 1858 and contains a short and cryptic note to someone named Henry Clay Whitney. The contributor is skeptical, as he's seen references on the Internet to several forgeries of this document, but Host Elyse Luray thinks it's worth a closer look. HD heads to the Land of Lincoln -Illinois - to investigate the future president's political calculations, and correspondence, at a pivotal time in his career.
* Quaker Map - A hand-drawn map that a woman from New Jersey picked up at an estate sale is entitled "Meetings of Friends," and describes in crude strokes the state of Ohio in the early 19th century. She wants to know if this could be a map of the fabled Underground Railroad. Experts verify that the map dates to circa 1815 and plots the locations of key Quaker houses of worship in that day. Delving deeper into the history of the faith, HD makes some extraordinary discoveries about how Quakers roused anti-slavery sentiment. In New York City, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Gwen Wright tracks cartographic clues to investigate the important role Quakers played in the Underground Railroad and launching the abolitionist movement.
* USS Indianapolis - A Cleveland, Ohio, man owns some intriguing artifacts that he believes may date back to a kamikaze attack on the USS Indianapolis in March 1945. The contributor's uncle served on this battleship, and while home shared a story with his family about an attack on his boat. He returned to the ship and was killed when the Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese torpedo during the final weeks of WWII. Years later, the family uncovered fragments of aluminum, military patches and a Japanese placard that the uncle had placed inside a cedar chest during his time on leave. Could these items be from the kamikaze attack on the USS Indianapolis? Wes Cowan ventures to Texas and Washington, DC, to examine the virulence and desperation of the Japanese suicide attacks that led up to one of the greatest sea disasters in US naval history.

Red Cloud Letter/'32 Ford Roadster/Cast Iron Eagle (Episode #507)

KQED 9: Mon, Mar 12, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* Red Cloud Letter - A Nebraska man obtained a curious letter from his grandfather, who spent time on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation during the early 20th century. The letter is from the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum, to a Lakota leader named James Red Cloud. It makes several ambiguous references to treaties between the US government and the Lakota and, moreover, to Borglum's desire to help the tribe. The contributor asks: How was a leader of the Lakota people connected with the creator of a monument that was regarded by many as a desecration of sacred land? Gwen Wright journeys to South Dakota's Black Hills for the answer.
* 32 Ford Roadster - A man in Benicia, CA, owns a 1932 Ford roadster that, upon purchase, had an engine too powerful for normal driving. The contributor suspects his car was used for dry-lake racing, a sport that had its heyday in Southern California in the 1930 s and 1940s. In 1932, although America was in the midst of the Depression, Henry Ford forged ahead, designing a new model '32 car with the first powerful V8 engine affordable to the masses. Was the contributor's car among the popular hot rods raced out at the dry lakes? Tukufu Zuberi high-tails it to California to examine one era's car-racing culture and to investigate one of the most iconic hot rods of all time.
* Cast Iron Eagle - One of the main attractions at a family-run zoo in Sussex, NJ, is a majestic, 12-foot-high cast iron eagle perched on an orb in the center of the park. The contributor's grandfather founded the park in 1927; family lore is that the eagle had once been perched atop an old post office in New York. However, a visitor recently told the contributor that the eagle resembles the giant cast iron eagles that graced the old Grand Central Station in Manhattan. The eagle dates to the post- Civil War period, when decorative style involved cast iron prefabrication. But was Grand Central Station - built for railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt -its original home? To find out, Wes Cowan heads to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York City, home of the arts and crafts movement at the turn of the 19th century.

Nc-4: First Across The Atlantic/Howard Hughes Crash/Professor Lowe's Hot Air Balloon (Episode #506)

KQED 9: Fri, Mar 9, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* NC-4: First Across The Atlantic - Almost 10 years before Charles Lindbergh's famous solo flight across the Atlantic, the NC-4 was the first aircraft to make the transatlantic journey in May 1919. Now, a woman in Saratoga, California, has a small square of canvas-like fabric that she believes comes from the NC-4, one of four US Navy "flying boats" that had originally been commissioned to alert American destroyers to the locations of German U-boat submarines that were wreaking havoc on merchant ships along the US coast during WWI. Due to early mechanical problems, the NC-4 was considered by many aviation insiders to be the least likely candidate to complete the trek across the Atlantic. In Pensacola, Florida, and Hammondsport, New York, host Elyse Luray investigates the little-known story of the NC-4 and its historic voyage.
* Howard Hughes Crash - On July 7, 1946, Howard Hughes undertook the first flight of his XF-11 - designed to be the highest, fastest spy plane of its time. But the propeller failed, leaving Hughes without power. He crashed in Beverly Hills, California, destroying two homes and scarring himself for life. A man in Laramie, Wyoming, owns a 1940s altimeter he received from his father, who claimed it came from the fiery crash. He'd been a Hughes employee for more than 34 years and was there the day of the accident. Based on this altimeter's near-perfect condition, experts are skeptical of its connection to the crash, but footage from Martin Scorsese's The Aviator and a visit to Hughes' Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum could challenge this assertion. Host Tukufu Zuberi heads to Los Angeles, California, and McMinnville, Oregon, to determine if the altimeter can be traced back to Hughes, an aviation pioneer and America's first billionaire.
* 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? Host Wes Cowan 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.

Great Mexican War Posters/Nora Holt Autograph Book/Muhlenberg Robe (Episode #505)

KQED 9: Thu, Mar 8, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

The team explores two silver bars from the Spanish ship Atocha and a typewriter that might have belonged to the famous World War II journalist, Ernie Pyle.

Atocha Spanish Silver/Lucy Parsons Book/Ernie Pyle's Typewriter (Episode #504Z)

KQED 9: Wed, Mar 7, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

The team examines a stash of strange and colorful posters announcing the "Great Mexican War" and a book filled with the autographs of Nora Holt, Carl Van Vechten, and Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Gar Photograph/Jefferson Pledge/Dempsey Fight Bell (Episode #503)

KQED 9: Tue, Mar 6, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

The team explores a $200 pledge by Thomas Jefferson to build a pair of elementary schools and a bell that may be from Jack Dempsey's legendary world heavyweight championship match.

Continental Currency/Short-Snorter/Liberty Bell Pin (Episode #502)

KQED 9: Mon, Mar 5, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

The team examines a six dollar bill dated February 17, 1776; a piece of paper signed by every luminary on the allied side of World War II; and an unassuming pin that might be made of metal drawn from the Liberty Bell.

Episode #711H

KQED 9: Fri, Mar 2, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* Civil War Bridge - Clearing some newly purchased property along the Broad River in Columbia, South Carolina, the owner discovered evidence of an old bridge abutment. He searched the river for clues and thinks he may have pinpointed the location where Confederates burned the bridge to thwart General Sherman's attempt to cross into Columbia to continue his scorch-and-burn campaign. Elyse Luray goes to Columbia to examine the evidence and see if this discovery will redraw the maps of the Civil War.
* Scottsboro Boys Stamp - A contributor bought an inconspicuous black and white stamp at an outdoor market in Scottsboro, Alabama. "Save the Scottsboro Boys" is printed on the stamp above nine black faces behind prison bars and two arms prying the bars apart. One arm bears the tattoo "ILD." On the bottom of the stamp is printed "one cent." The Scottsboro Boys were falsely accused and convicted of raping two white girls in 1931 on a train near Scottsboro, Alabama. It took several appeals, two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and nearly two decades before all nine finally walked free. How is the stamp connected to this landmark civil rights case? Gwendolyn Wright consults with a stamp expert to discover how a tiny penny stamp could make a difference in the young men's defense effort. .
* Duke Ellington Plates - A New York man took a stroll through Harlem 20 years ago and stumbled across boxes of sheet music in a dumpster. Among the paper scores were metal sheets that look like printing plates for "Take the A Train," written by Billy Strayhorn and performed by jazz great Duke Ellington. Scratches and ink smudges mar the plates, signs that someone might have run these through a printing press, but there's no apparent copyright stamp. Tukufu Zuberi sets out to find the story behind these plates and to determine the role they played in this jazz classic.

Episode #710H

KQED 9: Thu, Mar 1, 2018 -- 4:00 PM

* Stalag 17 Portrait - A Tempe, Arizona, woman has an intriguing memento of a sobering World War II experience: a portrait of her father sketched while he was held inside the German prisoner of war camp, Stalag 17B. On the back, her father has noted: "Done in May of 1944 by Gil Rhoden, using a #2 lead pencil. We were POWs in Stalag 17 at Krems, Austria. Gil agreed to do my portrait in exchange for two onions and a small potato." What happened to the artist? Did he survive the camp? Eduardo Pagan uncovers a stoic act of defiance and dignity behind the Stalag's barbed wire.
* Seadrome - A Rochester, New York, man inherited three photos of a Seadrome model from his grandfather. More than a decade before Charles Lindberg made his solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic, an American engineer proposed the Seadrome, a floating airport anchored to the ocean floor where trans-Atlantic passenger flights could refuel. Tukufu Zuberi travels to New York, Delaware and Maryland to find out what happened to this fantastic engineering marvel and discover what role the contributor's grandfather played in the Seadrome's history.
* Black Tom Shell - A woman in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, has an explosive artifact in her possession: a large, intact artillery shell, along with a note in her mother's handwriting that reads "Black Tom Explosion of 1914." The contributor's mother's record-keeping is off: It was not 1914, but July 30, 1916, when a German spy ring carried out a well-planned set of synchronized explosions on Black Tom Island in New York's harbor, using the United States' own cache of munitions produced to aid Britain and France in World War I. Two million pounds of exploding ammunition rocked the country as far away as Philadelphia and blew the windows out of nearly every high rise in lower Manhattan, injuring hundreds. Gwendolyn Wright travels to Maryland and New Jersey to determine whether this shell was involved in one of the earliest foreign terrorist attacks on American soil.

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