History Detectives

S11 Ep4: HDSI - Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?

Notorious teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared without a trace in 1975. Was he murdered? If so, who pulled the trigger and why? Watch as the History Detectives tackle this famous cold case.

Air Date 7/22/14

 
Embed
To embed this video, copy and paste the code above.
HISTORY DETECTIVES returns to explore 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.
Upcoming Air Dates
  • #1002 — History Detectives |
    Thursday, May 25 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1003 — History Detectives |
    Friday, May 26 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1004 — History Detectives |
    Saturday, May 27 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1005 — History Detectives |
    Monday, May 29 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1006 — History Detectives |
    Tuesday, May 30 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #601 — History Detectives
    WWII Diary - A man in Lexington, North Carolina, has a poignant diary written by a World War II pilot. He inherited the diary 20 years ago from his father, who said it once belonged to a close friend whom he fought alongside in WWII, until the war took his friend's life in 1944. Keeping the last thoughts of this fallen solider is now too great a burden for the contributor. Can HISTORY DETECTIVES return it to a living relative? The stakes are raised as the diary pages reveal the story of a young American pilot stationed in England, racing against time and all odds to return home before the birth of his first child. Host Wes Cowan heads to Florida on a quest to reunite the diary with the pilot's surviving family. 1856 Mormon Tale - The tattered pages of an anonymously authored 1856 book titled Female Life Among the Mormons claim to be the personal memoirs of a New York woman who married a Mormon elder at a time when polygamy was openly practiced but characterized by some abolitionists as the "enslavement of white women." In it, the author says she traveled with her husband as the Mormons were chased out of New York and Illinois, eventually settling in the Utah Territory. Throughout her journey, the author claims to have witnessed a shocking, immoral culture of violence, polygamy, sexual depravity and brainwashing. The contributor from Stanfordville, New York, wants to know who wrote the book and if, in fact, it is a true account Mormon life. The search to find the author takes HISTORY DETECTIVES into a mystery that has haunted bibliographers for nearly 150 years. Host Tukufu Zuberi sorts fact from fiction in this fascinating tale. Annie Oakley Coin - A contributor from Bath, Maine, has an 1853 French Napoleon coin with a bent, split edge and a great bit of family lore: that the coin was shot by Annie Oakley and that Oakley herself gave the coin to two of the contributor's great-granduncles. It doesn't look like any of the souvenir coins the Wild West Show icon typically handed out to her many fans. Can HISTORY DETECTIVES prove that the sharp-shooting star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show shot the coin for the two brothers - and turn family lore into bona fide bragging rights? To find out, host Elyse Luray travels to Cody, Wyoming, to conduct ballistics tests, scour the Buffalo Bill Historical Center archives and even re-create one of Oakley's sure shots. In HD where available.
    Friday, Jun 16 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #602 — History Detectives
    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? HISTORY DETECTIVES host 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? HISTORY DETECTIVES host 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? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwen Wright heads to the Sacramento Delta and to San Francisco to unravel the mystery of the Chinese Tong.
    Saturday, Jun 17 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #603 — History Detectives
    Japanese Balloon Bomb - The granddaughter of a World War II veteran from Austin, Texas, has a wartime memento with a note claiming it's a piece of Japanese balloon that floated across the Pacific Ocean in 1945. The alleged balloon scrap could be evidence of a unique weapon in modern warfare: the Japanese balloon bomb. More than 9,000 of these incendiary weapons were launched from Japan during the war via the jet stream with the intention of causing mass disruption and forest fires in the American West. The existence and purpose of the balloon bombs were kept secret from the American public for security reasons, until a tragic accident forced a change in policy. The balloon bombs caused the only fatalities on the U.S. mainland due to enemy action during World War II. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi travels to Austin, Texas and to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, to learn whether this souvenir is a missing piece of a secret weapon. Society Circus Program - In her school's drama closet, a young girl from Oregon finds a curious, yellowed circus program that reads "Official Program of Cobina Wright's Society Circus for the benefit of the Boy Scout Foundation, Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President, Season 1933." Who was Cobina Wright and what do the Boy Scouts, FDR and Cobina's Circus - with its lengthy "who's-who" celebrity list - have in common? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwen Wright explores New York City's 1930s high society and illuminates a connection between FDR and the Boy Scouts that inspired one of the most popular and effective pieces of the president's New Deal program. Camp David Letter - Maryland's Camp David has served as a presidential retreat for more than 60 years and is possibly best known for the Camp David Accords, the famous Egyptian-Israeli peace agreements signed there in 1978. A self-styled dumpster diver in San Francisco has recovered a windfall of memorabilia that reveals a story of Camp David's beginnings. The salvaged items appear to have once belonged to a three-generation Navy family headed by John H. Kevers. Among photos, dog tags and epaulets, one letter in particular caught the contributor's attention: It's from Ronald Reagan to Kevers' widow, stating "... Captain John H. Kevers gave many years of service to Presidents, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt ... Because of Captain Kevers, we have the enjoyable facility of Camp David ..." In Los Angeles and San Francisco, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan searches presidential archives and Navy history to pinpoint Kevers' connection to the secret mountaintop hideaway that was FDR's "Shangri-La."
    Monday, Jun 19 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #604 — History Detectives
    China Marine Jacket - A man in Santa Monica, California, received an embroidered jacket as a gift from his son. The contributor, a former Marine, is intrigued by the jacket's stitched inscriptions, which read: "4th Marines," "Shanghai," "China," "1937-1939" and "MWD." He knows the 4th Marines were transferred from Shanghai to the Philippines in November 1941 amidst growing tensions with the Japanese. The unit was attacked by the Japanese on the same day as the Pearl Harbor bombings. Some of the men who fought in the Philippines never returned, having suffered Japanese imprisonment and the Bataan Death March. But to whom did this particular jacket belong, and what was his legacy as a Marine? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwen Wright travels to Washington, DC, and Los Angeles to investigate the story of the "China Marines," a regiment that worked under extreme circumstances to keep the peace and protect American interests during the perilous ramp up to World War II. Airstream Caravan - A couple in Southern California owns a classic Airstream trailer that may lay claim to an illustrious past. The trailer's fading numbers and logo indicate that it is an early member of the elite Wally Byam Caravan Club International. In the mid-20th century, members of this adventure club followed legendary leader and Airstream founder Wally Byam all over the world: Central America, Europe, Africa and the Yucatan Peninsula. Did this particular Airstream make the journey on the historic "Cape Town to Cairo Caravan" of 1959? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi heads to Denver and Southern California to explore one man's wanderlust at the birth of American leisure travel and, ultimately, to a spectacular 221-day, 14,307-mile trek from the tip of Southern Africa to the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. Lincoln Forgery - A woman in Portland, Oregon, owns a bound volume of 19th-century sheet music. The book contains several "Abraham Lincoln" signatures on random pages. At the end of one of the compositions, a handwritten notarized inscription claims the music is a gift from President Lincoln's widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, to Lincoln's former coachman, William P. Brown, in 1866. Could the sheet music really be from Lincoln's personal library? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan travels to Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, to explore the years after Lincoln's death and to illuminate the origins of these curious documents.
    Tuesday, Jun 20 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #605 — History Detectives
    Hindenburg Artifact - A Hoboken, New Jersey, man has a palm-sized, army-green metal box that looks like an instrument panel. Beneath a shattered plastic covering is a sliding, numbered scale; knobs on each end move a lever across the scale. German writing indicates the country of origin. Might this instrument have been recovered from the crash site of the Hindenburg in Lakehurst, New Jersey? Family lore says that a distant relative was among the many bystanders plucking souvenirs from the wreckage of the terrifying disaster. Chemicals from the fire or balloon envelope gas would have evaporated 10 minutes after the explosion, but the broken plastic can be tested for age and heat distress with forensic analysis of the instrument. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray travels to Atlanta and the New Jersey landing site of the ill-fated zeppelin to determine if the instrument panel is in fact from the horrifying crash. Bonus Army Stamp - A collector in Hawaii has a postage-sized stamp with an illustration of a World War I "doughboy" solider and the words "PAY THE BONUS." The contributor, whose grandfather was a World War I soldier, thinks the stamp is linked to the "Bonus Army" veterans. A bill was passed in 1924 promising WWI veterans a payment 21 years later - dubbed a "bonus" - in 1945. When the Great Depression hit, veterans organized to demand early payment of the bonus. They organized a protest march on Washington in 1932, demanding pay for their combat, and approximately 20,000 veterans camped out near the Capitol following the march. Weeks went by until Herbert Hoover ordered General Douglas McArthur to force the vets out. Two veterans were shot and killed; thousands were tear-gassed. What role did this political stamp play in the veterans' movement? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan heads to Hyde Park, New York, and Washington, DC, to reveal the stamp's connection to the veterans' struggle. Dempsey Fight Bell - July 4, 1919, marks the day America found its true calling in a national obsession. Icon Jack Dempsey became the world's first boxing superstar, and he did it with the clang of a bell. Now, a contributor in Reno, Nevada, wants to know: Is the bell he's toasted many a night on the wall of his favorite bar the one that was ringside at Dempsey's legendary world heavyweight championship match? The question goes beyond a single fight. Dempsey's bout ushered in the Roaring 20s, America's fascination with celebrity and the golden age of championship sports. Tukufu Zuberi leads the HISTORY DETECTIVES to weigh in on the case in Reno, Nevada, and New York City, sorting truth from myth to determine which clues ring true.
    Wednesday, Jun 21 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #606 — History Detectives
    GAR Photograph - A Civil War enthusiast in Etters, Pennsylvania, owns a striking vintage photograph that depicts about 20 older white men in full dress uniform, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with two black men. In Reconstruction-era America, association between blacks and whites was frequently taboo. What brought them together for this portrait? Their bond, it turns out, was the Grand Army of the Republic, a remarkable fraternal order organized for war veterans. In fact, integration was actually a GAR standard. The reason? The men's common struggle with post traumatic stress transcended race. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray heads to Cazenovia, New York, and Washington, DC, to investigate the first national social group to challenge the color barrier. 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. HISTORY DETECTIVES host 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." 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, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwen Wright examines this film's depiction of the Nazis' manipulation of art and culture to bolster the party's following.
    Thursday, Jun 22 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #607 — History Detectives
    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. HISTORY DETECTIVES host 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. USS Olympia Glass - The door of a farmhouse in eastern Nebraska has an etched glass window with a depiction of a ship cruising through open waters, smoke pouring from its stacks. The home's owner believes the ship is the USS Olympia, the cruiser commanded by Commodore George Dewey when he defeated Admiral Montojo's Spanish aquadron at Manila Bay in 1898, beginning the Spanish-American War. The farm's been in the family for more than half a century, and a 1977 letter from the USS Olympia Association states that etched glass windows may have adorned Admiral Dewey's own stateroom. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan travels to Fremont, Nebraska, and Philadelphia to find our whether the unique window can serve as a portal into a turning point in American foreign policy. Front Street Blockhouse - When a young couple in Schenectady, New York, purchased their dream house in the town's historic district, they believed their home was built for a middle-class family in the late 19th century, like all other homes in their neighborhood. But four mysterious stone walls visible in the attic have led them to believe otherwise. Did this house once guard against enemy attacks during the tense years of the French and Indian Wars - nearly 300 years ago? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray travels to Upstate New York to determine whether this unassuming structure may have helped ensure the survival of the town of Schenectady, a 17th- and 18th-century vanguard Dutch outpost, as it fought France and her Indian allies for control of the lucrative fur trade.
    Friday, Jun 23 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #608 — History Detectives
    John Adams Book - A woman in Littleton, New Hampshire, inherited her husband's aunt's belongings, which include a curious late-18th-century book titled Trials of Patriots. It contains what appears to be President John Adams' signature in three places, and includes an inscription, "Charles Adams from His Father, 1794." The book is a collection of transcripts chronicling the sedition trials of Irish and Scottish radicals. If the book is indeed from Adams to his son, it could reveal pivotal clues about the inner-workings of this presidential family. In Boston and John Adams' hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwendolyn Wright examines the Adams family's correspondence and conflict as they balanced home life with public service. Mankato Spoon - A woman in Portland, Oregon, has a curious spoon that once belonged to her grandmother. It's known in her family as "the spoon of atrocities." An eerie scene is etched into its sterling silver bowl: wagons, buildings and a crowd of spectators gathered before a gallows with figures hanging from them. A disturbing message is inscribed: "Hanging 38 Sioux In 1862 Mankato, Minn." What is this tragic scene and why has it been etched into what looks like a commemorative spoon? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan travels to Mankato, New Ulm and Minneapolis, Minnesota, to explore the clash between white settlers and Sioux in the mid-19th century - and a struggle that led to the largest mass execution in American history. 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. A woman in Saratoga, California, has a small square of canvas-like fabric that she believes comes from the NC-4, one of four U.S. 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 U.S. coast during World War I. 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, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray investigates the little-known story of the NC-4 and its historic voyage.
    Saturday, Jun 24 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #609 — History Detectives
    Shipwreck Cannons - Beachcombers on the Oregon Coast spotted what looked like large, rusty rocks sticking out of the sand. The state of Oregon, which has recovered the encrusted objects, believes they house priceless artifacts: cannons from the 1846 shipwreck of the USS Shark. The Shark and a few fast-sailing schooners like her were built in the 1820s to suppress slave traders and pirates. In 1846, the Shark was sent on what may have been her most challenging mission, to resolve the matter of the "Oregon question." In the Pacific Northwest, both the United States and Great Britain laid claim to large stretches of the Northwest Territories. The Shark's mission was to uncover intelligence on the British and their intentions, but the vessel met with disaster, sinking while attempting to cross the treacherous Columbia Bar. In Oregon and southwest Washington, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwendolyn Wright tracks the 162-year-old naval tale with the help of lead investigative archaeologists from the U.S. Navy and the state of Oregon. Connecticut Farmhouse - A resident of rural East Haddam, Connecticut, owns an old house that he believes has a story to tell. Between 1891 and 1906, the farm changed hands six times, and the names of the residents appear to be mostly Eastern European. The late 1800s marked the beginning of a mass immigration of Eastern European Jews to the United States. The majority of refugees came from Russia, after the assassination of Alexander II in 1881 set off violent anti-Jewish riots across the country. By 1893, about a million immigrants had entered the U.S. through major East Coast ports, especially New York. But why did so many newcomers end up in this particular Connecticut home, and what accounted for the high turnover? In Connecticut and New York City, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray explores the efforts of Jewish-American relief societies to support the Jewish agricultural community as it struggled to take root in a new land. Kahlil Gibran Painting - A contributor from Overland Park, Kansas, has an unsigned oil portrait of his grandfather, Najib Musa Diab, which he believes was painted by the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet. His grandfather was a contemporary of Gibran, whose poetry was published by the Arabic-language newspaper that Diab founded in Brooklyn, New York. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi's investigation reveals the perplexing challenges Gibran and other Arab immigrants faced as they balanced their new American identities with loyalties to their native lands when World War I changed the Middle East map and policy. From this turmoil, Gibran found the unique blend of Eastern and Western philosophy that permeated his writing and art. Did this period in Gibran's life also produce Diab's portrait? HISTORY DETECTIVES heads to Savannah, Georgia, and New York City to find out.
    Monday, Jun 26 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #610 — History Detectives
    Blueprint Special - A WWII veteran from Chico, California, owns a unique souvenir from his time as a young GI. While stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he picked up a 16-inch acetate recording of a promo for a soldier musical called "Hi Yank." The recording starts with a director's introduction, explaining that the musical is a "blueprint special" created by GIs for GIs to be performed anywhere in the world. The contributor has heard of USO shows, but never a "blueprint special" musical. Could this recording be a piece of forgotten history? In Washington, DC, and Virginia, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray meets with U.S. Army archivists and historians to discuss the military's efforts to boost morale and instill a sense of patriotism as the U.S. entered WWII. Monroe Letter - A Florida woman recently inherited a family mystery. In her late mother's belongings, she stumbled on a framed letter allegedly penned by future President James Monroe in 1807. The contributor has recognized a family name "Manwaring" scrawled near the date, and believes the letter references a monetary debt the financially unstable U.S. government owed the Manwaring family. The document leads HISTORY DETECTIVES to a tale of terror on the high seas, when American merchant ships were stalked by Britain, their cargo pillaged and their crews forced into the British Navy. Young America was desperate to avoid war, and James Monroe, then Minister to Britain, attempted to mediate with his pen. In Newport, Rhode Island, and Charlottesville and Fredricksburg, Virginia, host Gwendolyn Wright tracks a conflict that nearly bankrupted America. Atocha Spanish Silver - In 1985, one of the greatest treasure discoveries was made off the Florida Keys when the wreck of the Spanish ship Atocha was found. On board were some 40 tons of silver and gold, which in 1622 had been heading from the New World to the Spanish treasury as the means to fund the Thirty Years' War. A man from Cedartown, Georgia, was a diver on that legendary find and received two silver bars as compensation for his efforts. He's long been mystified by a strange mark that appears on one of the bars but the mark is mysteriously absent from the other bar. In Key West, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi translates 300-year-old documents from the archives of the Spanish treasury in Seville to crack a unique code of communication among ship captains of that era.
    Tuesday, Jun 27 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #611 — History Detectives
    In a special presentation of the sixth season, America's top gumshoes prove once again that an object found in an attic or backyard might be anything but ordinary. Wes Cowan, independent appraiser and auctioneer; Gwendolyn Wright, professor of architecture, Columbia University; Elyse Luray, independent appraiser and expert in art history; and Tukufu Zuberi, professor of sociology and the director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, leave no stone unturned as they travel around the country to explore the stories behind local folklore, prominent figures and family legends. Slave Songbook - The president of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum in Culver City, California, recently discovered an unusual book in his late mother's extraordinary collection of African-American artifacts. The small, cloth-bound book, titled Slave Songs of the United States, has a publication date of 1867 and contains a collection of 136 plantation songs. Could this be the first book of African-American spirituals ever published? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan visits a music historian in Los Angeles to explore the coded messages and the melodies that laid the foundation of modern blues, gospel and protest songs of future generations. He also meets with Washington, DC's Howard University Choir for a special concert of selections from Slave Songs sung in the traditional style of mid-1800s spirituals. Josh White Guitar - A Michigan man owns a Guild brand acoustic guitar that he says once belonged to legendary African-American folksinger Josh White, who is credited with introducing black folk, gospel and blues music to a world audience in the 1940s. The contributor met White after a concert when he was a kid, and the guitar reminds him of a confidence White had shared with him: the Guild Company was talking to White about making a signature guitar built to his specifications and marketed under his name. If this is the guitar White had spoken of, it would be the first signature guitar ever created for an African-American musician in the United States. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray travels around New York City and New Jersey to explore the crossover appeal of Josh White's music and his ability to win over a racially polarized music industry. Birthplace of Hip Hop - A hip hop enthusiast from New York City has always heard that 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop. The story goes that on August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc, a building resident, was entertaining at his sister's back- to-school party and tried something new on the turntable: he extended an instrumental beat (breaking or scratching) to let people dance longer (breakdancing) and began MC'ing (rapping) during the extended breakdancing. This, the contributor believes, marked the birth of hip-hop. The music led to an entire cultural movement that's altered generational thinking - from politics and race to art and language. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi sets out to examine an inner-city environment that helped lay the foundation for a cultural revolution.
    Wednesday, Jun 28 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #701 — History Detectives
    PsychoPhone - A couple in Cincinnati acquired a peculiar phonograph at an antiques auction. The machine, labeled "PsychoPhone," included four grooved wax cylinders. The contributors think Thomas Edison invented the PsychoPhone to record messages from the afterlife. As early as the 1870s, Edison and other scientific minds explored psychic phenomena, believing every living being was made of atoms that could "remember" past lives. Did Edison make a machine to unlock the secrets of the dead? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwendolyn Wright travels to the Thomas A. Edison Menlo Park museum in New Jersey to find out. War Dog Letter - A World War II collector from Kansas City, Kansas, has a cryptic letter from a soldier to another military man. The soldier explains that military investigators have questioned him about a man named Prestre - specifically about his character and qualifications as a dog trainer. The contributor wants to know why the military was investigating Prestre and what the dogs were being trained to do. The search takes HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi to remote Cat Island near Gulfport, Mississippi, and Fort Lee in Virginia. The military put great effort into a new "War Dogs" program during WWII. What went wrong on Cat Island? Pancho Villa Watch Fob - Just before he died, a man gave his neighbors a most unusual gift: a watch fob commemorating Francisco "Pancho" Villa's murderous raid on the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. The man says he was a boy when the raid occurred in 1916, and he and his parents survived by hiding under a train car. The new owners want to know more about this watch fob. Who made it? Did their friend indeed witness this infamous raid? HISTORY DETECTIVES' new guest host, Eduardo Pagan, leads on an expedition that reveals an especially wild chapter of the American West.
    Thursday, Jun 29 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #702 — History Detectives
    Manhattan Project - A contributor is certain that his father worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. His father refused to talk about his war assignment, except to say that he sold his patent to the U.S. government for a single dollar. Along with the patent, the contributor has a letter from the Atomic Energy Commission stating that his father's patent had been declassified. Was this invention used to build the atomic bomb? To find out, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan travels to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and discovers a plan to hide atomic secrets in plain sight. Galleon Shipwreck - A woman in Portland, Oregon, has a large chunk of what she believes is very old beeswax. This 23-pound block, dug up on the northern Oregon coast in the late 1930s, seems to have been deliberately carved with strange markings. For centuries, ships carried beeswax on trade routes from the Far East to the American Pacific Coast. Could this beeswax have been cargo on a legendary ship that foundered more then 300 years ago? And what do those odd markings mean? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray goes to the Bee Lab at Oregon State University to decipher where the beeswax came from and visits an archaeologist in Olympia, Washington, to track which ship may have brought it to the Oregon coast. Creole Poems - A HISTORY DETECTIVES fan from Chicago recently unearthed a French manuscript rolled in a cardboard tube. "Duplessis, " his great-grandmother's mother-in-laws surname, is jotted in a margin, and "Rouzan," his grandmother's maiden name, appears at the bottom of another page. No one in the family knows anything about it, but the contributor, who reads a little French, thinks he has a collection of love poems, possibly written to one of his relatives. What is this? And why has his family kept it for 160 years? The questions lead HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwendolyn Wright to New Orleans and to a piece of family history the contributor had never known.
    Friday, Jun 30 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #703 — History Detectives
    St. Valentine's Day Massacre - HISTORY DETECTIVES stares down the barrel of a shotgun for clues that one of Al Capone's men fired it in a Chicago gang massacre that shocked the nation. The gun came to the contributor's family after it was handed down through two generations of prominent Chicago families. It's a Western Field single-barreled repeating action 12-guage shotgun. The barrel and the stock were once shortened just the way the Capone gang liked its guns: easy to conceal and with greater destructive force. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray tests the gun's firepower, consults with ballistics experts and combs through physical evidence to see if she can place this gun at the scene of the crime. Booth Letter - A contributor gave HISTORY DETECTIVES a letter indicating that, 30 years before John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, Booth's father threatened to kill another sitting president, Andrew Jackson. Signed "Junius Brutus Booth," the letter to Jackson reads, "You damn'd old scoundrel ... I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping." The writer insists that Jackson pardon two men who were sentenced to death. Why did the fate of these two men incite such fury? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi travels to Nashville to consult historians at The Hermitage, the ancestral home of President Andrew Jackson, and to Washington, DC, to talk with a Booth biographer. Was the letter a hoax? Or did assassination run in the Booth blood? Cemetery Alarm - A Midland, Michigan, man who collects war munitions snapped up an item at an estate auction that looked like a Civil War-era weapon. On closer inspection, after consulting with other collectors, he decided he had a grave alarm: an explosive device meant to guard against grave robbers. Is this truly a grave alarm? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan's investigation winds through tales of body snatching and cadaver dissecting, unusual crimes and the most unlikely suspects.
    Saturday, Jul 1 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #704 — History Detectives
    Sideshow Babies - A Colorado woman has a silver baby cup engraved "Patricia - 1933. A Century of Progress Chicago." She hopes this 1933 Chicago World's Fair souvenir can unlock the mystery of her mother's unusual start in life. Family lore holds that the Chicago Public Health Board took premature Patricia from her shoebox cradle at home and put her in an incubator at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Why were babies exhibited at the fair? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray learns about the forgotten doctor who brought life-saving incubator technology to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Lubin Photos - A contributor from Branford, Florida, inherited two bulging photo albums, dated 1914 to 1916, that contain hundreds of photos of old silent film stars and a behind-the-scenes look into an enormous film studio empire - not in Hollywood, but Philadelphia. She received the albums from a distant relative, Herbie Lubin. One of the books holds many Western scenes, including a cowboy character captioned "Herbert Lubin." Other captions refer to the Siegmund Lubin Studios. Who was Siegmund Lubin? And was Herbie a movie star? HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi takes viewers on an excursion through an early movie mogul's dramatic rise and fall. Navajo Rug - At auction, a contributor bought a rug whose woven designs intrigued him. A Southwest American history buff, he's fascinated by the rug's central figure of a man with a feathered head holding lightning bolts. He believes the figure was never meant to be captured by a loom. Did the weaver violate a taboo? Who wove the rug? HISTORY DETECTIVES guest host Eduardo Pagan meets with a Navajo medicine man and a traditional Navajo weaver and travels to Crownpoint, New Mexico, long considered the center of Navajo weaving. Finally, HISTORY DETECTIVES visits a textile historian to find out who may have been behind this controversial design.
    Monday, Jul 3 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #705 — History Detectives
    Tokyo Rose Recording - A HISTORY DETECTIVES viewer has a recording he thinks holds evidence used in the World War II treason trial of Iva Tugori, aka Tokyo Rose. Toguri was an American citizen who hosted a Japanese propaganda radio show broadcast to U.S. troops serving in the Pacific. These broadcasts were at the center of what was then the costliest trial in U.S. history. The viewer has never been able to play his oversized record, but family lore says it reveals the role his uncle played in this infamous show trial. HISTORY DETECTIVES host Gwendolyn Wright consults with experts from Long Island to Los Angeles. Her answer flips assumptions of guilt and innocence, and gives viewers a fresh angle on what actually happened in and around that trial. Crazy Horse Photo - Twenty-five years ago, someone gave a leather purse to a Lakota businessman. Inside the purse he found a photograph and a note, dated 1904, written in the Lakota language. An elderly man from the Lakota community translated the note. In brief, it says, "This is a photograph of Crazy Horse." Does the contributor have the Holy Grail of the Wild West: a photo of the Lakota warrior who defeated General Custer? Historians are suspicious of most photos purported to be of Crazy Horse. The Lakota leader avoided cameras, believing they would rob his soul. To verify the photo, HISTORY DETECTIVE host Elyse Luray tracks down a Crazy Horse descendant and visits the Crazy Horse Memorial. Finally, she puts the photo in context with other works by the same photographer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. WWII DIARY (Encore presentation) - A man in Lexington, North Carolina, has a poignant diary written by a World War II pilot. He inherited the diary 20 years ago from his father, who said it once belonged to a close friend whom he fought alongside in WWII, until the war took his friend's life in 1944. Keeping the last thoughts of this fallen solider is now too great a burden for the contributor. Can HISTORY DETECTIVES return it to a living relative? The stakes are raised as the diary pages reveal the story of a young American pilot stationed in England, racing against time and all odds to return home before the birth of his first child. Host Wes Cowan heads to Florida on a quest to reunite the diary with the pilot's surviving family.
    Tuesday, Jul 4 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1002 — History Detectives
    Wes Cowan hunts for the identity of a man whose name is engraved on a rare matched set of Civil War-era pistols, still in the original case. Tukufu Zuberi tracks down the story behind an old 78rpm, distributed by K.K.K. Records, containing songs titled "The Bright Fiery Cross" and "The Jolly Old Klansman." And Eduardo Pagan tries to prove that James Jamerson, a bass player whose bass line drove the Motown sound, owned a battered Ampeg B-15 amp that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will display - but only if inductee Jamerson really owned it.
    Thursday, May 25 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1003 — History Detectives
    Host Elyse Luray floors country music singer Clint Black with the information she uncovers about his turn-of-the-20th-century book of wanted posters. Then, can Eduardo Pagan link a chunk of molten metal to the B-25 Bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945? Did HISTORY DETECTIVES find a slide of Bettie Page, "Queen of Pinups," that somehow escaped the censorship of the 1950s? Finally, a six-foot metal bar tells the story behind the original iconic Hollywood sign.
    Friday, May 26 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1004 — History Detectives
    What does the evocative symbol of a bird dropping a bomb mean? Did two patches with the symbol belong to a World War II unit? Then, Gwen Wright connects a tiny swatch of tattered red fabric to a pivotal moment in U.S. Civil War history. Did a neckpiece and leggings once belong to Chief Black Kettle, known as a Cheyenne Peace Chief? Finally, did President Lincoln actually sign this note?
    Saturday, May 27 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1005 — History Detectives
    HISTORY DETECTIVES steps into a family dispute: Was this picture frame crafted from the staircase banister of the Titanic, the Lusitania or neither? Then Tukufu Zuberi wonders whether Woolworth signs were part of the scene at the 1960 Winston-Salem lunch-counter sit-ins. For 70 years, toy soldiers have haunted their owner with a question: Was the father of his childhood friend a Nazi spy? Then, a journal full of liquor recipes makes a man wonder if his uncle was a prohibition bootlegger.
    Monday, May 29 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1006 — History Detectives
    Can HISTORY DETECTIVES return the diary of a fallen North Vietnamese soldier to that veteran's family? U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta takes part in the exchange. A notebook with recipes for large volumes of liquor makes an Indiana man wonder if his rich uncle earned money bootlegging during Prohibition. What can a ledger tell us about Hollywood's treatment of Native-American actors? How did they earn their pay? Did producers treat them fairly?
    Tuesday, May 30 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1007 — History Detectives
    What are the details behind the heroic acts pictured in a poster about two African-American soldiers in World War I? Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) helps find the answer. Then, is this a hand-drawn map of Valley Forge that George Washington used during the American Revolution? And does a Tucson man own one of the first transistor radios ever made? Finally, after 70 years, a Washington man wonders whether a business card ties his father to Prohibition-era underworld crime.
    Wednesday, May 31 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1008 — History Detectives
    The History Detectives investigate four stories from the American West. Did a biography of legendary frontiersman Kit Carson once belong to members of his family? Then, from the rodeo to Hollywood, a saddle tells the story of Yakima Canutt, who made life safer for movie stunt artists. What is the meaning behind the mysterious inscription on sheet music of the popular western song "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"? Finally, did a pivotal character in the Modoc Indian wars weave this basket?
    Thursday, Jun 1 at 5am TPT LIFE
  • #1009 — History Detectives
    HISTORY DETECTIVES tells four stories of our nation's beginning. First, Eduardo Pagan starts with a simple bill of sale for a 17-year old "negro girl" and learns how young Willoby's life unfolds from being property to owning property. Then Gwen Wright traces a powder horn from a muddy Minnesota field to a military captain in Massachusetts during the American Revolution. Elyse Luray asks what role a handwritten score played in making "The Star Spangled Banner" our national anthem. Finally, notes in a 1775 almanac show how conflicting loyalties strained family ties during the Revolution.
    Friday, Jun 2 at 5am TPT LIFE

Introducing

Watch even more of your favorite PBS and TPT shows online.

Learn More

“I’m a TPT member to support the amazing kids’ programming!”

Become A Member
Top