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History Detectives: Civil War Letters; Lindbergh-Sikorsky Fabric; African American Comic Book

Airs Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Ellen and Dale Campbell of LaGrande, Oregon found these Civil War letters. They asked HISTORY DETECTIVES to help them learn what happened to the young soldier central to these letters.

America's top gumshoes are back to prove once again that an object found in an attic or backyard might be anything but ordinary.

Your Investigation

If you need more help with your own investigations, visit Detective Techniques, with guides on how to research a WWII military record, rock and mineral identification, and more information on art and photo evaluation. You can also find a step-by-step guide to genealogy, researching buildings, document evaluation and much more.

The soldier addressed this Civil War letter to his brother at the Senate Post in Washington, DC. Why did this soldier ask to serve as an officer of a ‘colored’ unit?
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Above: The soldier addressed this Civil War letter to his brother at the Senate Post in Washington, DC. Why did this soldier ask to serve as an officer of a ‘colored’ unit?

Tukufu Zuberi (right) interviews Sergei Sikorsky (left), son of helicopter inventor, Igor Sikorsky. Is this Igor’s signature on this aviation fabric? Which aircraft did this fabric come from?
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Above: Tukufu Zuberi (right) interviews Sergei Sikorsky (left), son of helicopter inventor, Igor Sikorsky. Is this Igor’s signature on this aviation fabric? Which aircraft did this fabric come from?

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.

"Civil War Letters" - A couple of stamp enthusiasts found far more than stamps in a box they purchased. In the box, along with Civil War era stamps, we find letters addressed to a William Blackford, Senate Post, Washington, D.C.

One letter appears to be from his brother, John Blackford. In the letter John asks for help securing an officer position in an African American unit. A second letter informs William Blackford that his brother, John, has been wounded. Why would John Blackford want to command an African American unit? Did he survive his wounds and did he ever receive the commission?

"Lindbergh-Sikorsky Fabric" - For over 50 years our contributor has cherished an object he inherited from his late father. It’s a piece of fabric in Plexiglass with signatures of Charles Lindbergh and Igor Sikorsky and dated August 1943.

His father said the fabric came from the Spirit of St. Louis, the airplane Lindbergh flew non-stop from New York to Paris in 1927. But why would helicopter inventor Igor Sikorsky sign this fabric? Since his father died when he was just a teen, our contributor didn’t have a chance to ask more about this souvenir.

Gerald Early found this rare 1950s comic book. The characters are African American. He asks HISTORY DETECTIVES, did African American artists create this book? Who was the intended audience?
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Above: Gerald Early found this rare 1950s comic book. The characters are African American. He asks HISTORY DETECTIVES, did African American artists create this book? Who was the intended audience?

"African American Comic Book" - Our contributor found an unusual 1950's comic book at an auction, titled Negro Romance. This was the Golden Age of comic books, when Americans voraciously consumed stories about superheroes, determined detectives and thrilling romances - yet very few featured African American characters. Did black artists create this comic book? And who was the intended audience?

"History Dectectives" is on Facebook, and you can follow @histdetectives on Twitter.

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History Detectives: Season Nine Preview

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

Above: Our five intrepid detectives are back with new investigations and fascinating stories in season nine of the "History Detectives."

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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.