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History Detectives: Civil War Cannon; The Ni’ihau Incident; Yakima Canutt’s Saddle

Airs Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray (right) helps Robert Sarco of Hollywood (left), South Carolina figure out whether the metal shavings in this tube came from the cannon that fired the first shot of the Civil War.

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.

Did the metal shavings in this tube come from the cannon that fired the first shot of the Civil War?
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Above: Did the metal shavings in this tube come from the cannon that fired the first shot of the Civil War?

If these parts came from a Japanese airplane why are they etched with English letters? Eduardo Pagán travels to the forbidden island of Ni’ihau, Hawaii to investigate.
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Above: If these parts came from a Japanese airplane why are they etched with English letters? Eduardo Pagán travels to the forbidden island of Ni’ihau, Hawaii to investigate.

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 Cannon" - A Charleston, South Carolina antique dealer discovered a century old puzzle in a corked test tube. The tube contained what appeared to be metal filings along with a note that reads: "Old Secession was rebored at the Charleston Iron Works May 4/99 and fired by Palmetto Guard Company U.C.V. in honor of U.C.V. reunion May 10/99." Growing up he had heard the story of a Charleston cannon that fired the shot that began the Civil War.

Could these shavings come from the cannon that sounded the first volley in the fight for southern secession? "History Detectives" goes to the harbor overlooking Ft. Sumter, the first battlefield of the Civil War and gets crucial information from an expert that restores cannons.

"The Ni'ihau Incident" - "History Detectives’" first ever Hawaii story takes us to the island of Ni’ihau, the backdrop for a fascinating tale often overshadowed by the enormity of the raid on Pearl Harbor.

This investigation hinges on two engine parts. Our contributor got the parts from his father who served as an army mechanic in Hawaii during World War II.

His father said the parts came from a Japanese fighter plane that crash-landed on Ni’ihau during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The pilot survived, but held island residents hostage, setting the stage for a drama of terror and heroism. "History Detectives" gains unprecedented access to the “Forbidden Island” to conduct this extraordinary investigation.

Terry Garber from McCall, Idaho wants proof that this saddle belonged to Yakima Cannut, a rodeo champion who changed Hollywood movie-making.
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Above: Terry Garber from McCall, Idaho wants proof that this saddle belonged to Yakima Cannut, a rodeo champion who changed Hollywood movie-making.

"Yakima Canutt's Saddle" - A veteran collector of cowboy gear, our contributor thinks he may have a saddle that once belonged to rodeo champion and Hollywood legend, Yakima Canutt.

The saddle has the name "Canutt" tooled into the leather, with the word "Yak" inserted into the middle of "Canutt." Yakima Canutt dominated the rodeo circuit and when early Western actor Tom Mix met Canutt, he helped launch Canutt’s Hollywood career.

Canutt first starred as an actor in silent movies, then doubled as a stuntman for some of Hollywood’s biggest names – Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and John Wayne. But our collector wants "History Detectives" to answer a nagging question: Did this saddle actually belong to Yakima Canutt?

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

Video

Yak Cannutt: Devil Horse Clip

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

Above: Yakima Canutt dominated the rodeo circuit and when early Western actor Tom Mix met Canutt, he helped launch Canutt’s Hollywood career. Canutt first starred as an actor in silent movies, then doubled as a stuntman for some of Hollywood’s biggest names – Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and John Wayne.

Video

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."