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History Detectives: Continental Club Card; St Valentine’s Day Massacre; Society Circus Program

Airs Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Table with gun and ballistics display. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was one of the first cases in the country to use ballistic evidence to tie weapons to a crime.

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.

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.

The HISTORY DETECTIVES contributor wants to know why his father’s name is on this Club Continental business card. The Club Continental, a glitzy gambling nightspot in Los Angeles in the 1930s, reportedly had mob connections.
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Above: The HISTORY DETECTIVES contributor wants to know why his father’s name is on this Club Continental business card. The Club Continental, a glitzy gambling nightspot in Los Angeles in the 1930s, reportedly had mob connections.

"Continental Club Card" - A Guemes Island, Wash. resident wants to know why his father's name is on a business card for Club Continental, a glitzy, Los Angeles Prohibition era gambling spot.

The card has a phone number and his father's name, Fred Nicolls. He's heard that his father worked at the Club Continental; and according to the family story, a mobster named Nola Hahn ran the club. Fred Nicolls did some prison time for bootlegging during Prohibition, but was later pardoned.

"History Detectives" host Eduardo Pagán steps in to connect the dots and reveal the facts about Fred Nicolls and his business card.

Mike Lux’s shotgun has two notches on the pistol grip. Lt. Hafer of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan says criminals have been known to carve notches into their guns when they kill a man.
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Above: Mike Lux’s shotgun has two notches on the pistol grip. Lt. Hafer of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan says criminals have been known to carve notches into their guns when they kill a man.

"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 our 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-gauge shotgun. The barrel and the stock were once shortened just the way the Capone gang liked its guns: easy to conceal and with more destructive force.

"History Detectives" tests the gun’s firepower, consults with ballistics experts, and combs through physical evidence to see if the gun can be placed at the scene of the crime.

Claire, a 13-year-old from Portland, Oregon, found this old circus program in her school's drama closet. The program mentions President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among many other notables. Claire wants to know if the program has important historical significance.
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Above: Claire, a 13-year-old from Portland, Oregon, found this old circus program in her school's drama closet. The program mentions President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among many other notables. Claire wants to know if the program has important historical significance.

"Society Circus Program" - A young girl from Oregon finds a curious, yellowed circus program in her school’s drama closet 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.”

The program seems to promote some kind of high society theme party at the opulent Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. 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" 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.

"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.

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