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History Detectives: WB Cartoons, Galvez Papers, Mussolini Dagger

Airs Monday, August 30, 2010 at 9 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.

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Submit Your Mystery To History Detectives

Above: Let HISTORY DETECTIVES solve your mystery! Please tell us about an object that you think may have played a starring role - or was just along for the ride - among the newsworthy people, places or events in American history. This could be blackouts or boycotts, inaugurations or integration, pop art or pop culture, Joe Frasier or Joe DiMaggio, the Golden Spike or the Golden Gate and more! Send us your mystery.