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HISTORY DETECTIVES: WB Cartoons, Galvez Papers, Mussolini Dagger

Airs Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: HISTORY DETECTIVES host Tukufu Zuberi (right) helps Bruce Cockrill (left) identify the characters in this animation cell, and investigates the role they played in animated cartoon history.

America's top gumshoes are back to prove once again that an object found in an attic or backyard might be anything but ordinary. Wesley Cowan, independent appraiser and auctioneer; Gwendolyn Wright, historian and professor of architecture, Columbia University; Elyse Luray, independent appraiser and expert in art history; Dr. Eduardo Pagán, professor of history and American studies at Arizona State University; 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.

This document dates back to the days just after the Revolutionary War. It records a rare moment when the regional governor signed the papers granting freedom to a slave woman named Agnes Mathieu. Two hundred thirty years later, her descendants want to know why this powerful man would concern himself with a slave.
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Above: This document dates back to the days just after the Revolutionary War. It records a rare moment when the regional governor signed the papers granting freedom to a slave woman named Agnes Mathieu. Two hundred thirty years later, her descendants want to know why this powerful man would concern himself with a slave.

"WB Cartoons" - Tukufu Zuberi doesn’t recognize many of the characters in this box of cartoon drawings and cels, but together they tell an unexpected story about the early days of animation and the people behind the art. Contributor Bruce Cockrill tells us he bought the box about ten years ago at a salvage yard in Berkeley. Host Tukufu Zuberi doesn’t recognize most of the characters in these drawings, but the condition of the art leads him to believe they’re old.

HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan tells Jerry Steichen what he discovered about this dagger. Steichen believes it once belonged to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
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Above: HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan tells Jerry Steichen what he discovered about this dagger. Steichen believes it once belonged to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

"Galvez Papers" - Then, Elyse Luray unravels a love story when she explores why a regional governor cared enough about a slave to sign her emancipation papers. What was so special about Agnes that a Governor had to sign off on her release? Most freedom papers from the time bear only the signature of the former slaveholder notarized by a local clerk.

"Mussolini Dagger" - And (in a repeat segment), did this elaborate dagger once belong to Benito Mussolini? Jerry Steichen, of Reno, Nevada, has a weapon which he believes may be connected to the last days of the world’s first fascist state. Jerry wants to know if a dagger his uncle brought back from the war belonged to Mussolini himself. Wes Cowan retraces the last steps of Fascist Italian dictator to find the answer.

This episode originally aired in 2010.

HISTORY DETECTIVES is on Facebook.

Video

WB Cartoons

Above: Our contributor has a box of cartoon drawings and cels. Host Tukufu Zuberi doesn't recognize most of the characters in these drawings, but the condition of the art leads him to believe they're old. What role did these drawings play in the history of animation? This investigation takes us through the early years of animation and introduces us to some of the unsung heroes behind the art.

Video

Galvez Papers

Above: Our contributor has a document from 1779 signed by the Governor of Spanish colonial Louisiana that emancipated Agnes Mathieu from slavery. What was so special about Agnes? Most freedom papers from the time bear only the notarization of a local clerk. Elyse Luray discovers Galvez's pivotal role in America's fight for freedom and in a romantic story of our contributor's past.

Video

Mussolini's Dagger

Above: In the spring of 1945, in some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II, Allied forces move north through Italy, liberating towns from Fascist control. Italy's leader, Benito Mussolini, is in hiding. Our contributor has a weapon which he believes may be connected to the last days of the world's first fascist state. Did this dagger his uncle brought back from the war belong to Mussolini himself?