In the heart of Philadelphia, stands the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary building.
Founded by Quakers in 1829, this castle-like structure set new standards for prisons across the country with its progressive ideas for rehabilitation.
Recently, a group in charge of preserving this historic structure found a strange plaque discarded in a pile of rubbish. Dusting it off, they found an intriguing inscription: "In the everlasting memory of the inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary who served in World War I".
Even more intriguing is that fact that they are listed not by name, but by their prison numbers. From what they know, convicted felons were prohibited from enlisting or being drafted to fight in the war.
What's going on here? Is this an example of the prison's progressive take on prisoner reform? Or is this a sign of desperate recruiting measures for the "War to end all wars", where even prisoners are being sent into battle?
The History Detectives are on the case to get to the bottom of this mystery.
- Related Investigation Scottsboro Boys Stamp Did a penny stamp help save the Scottsboro Boys from the electric chair?
- Related Investigation McKinley Casket Flag Did this flag once drape the casket of President William McKinley?
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 Ventriloquist Dummy How did an African-American ventriloquist act become so successful in a time of racial unrest?
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 Howard Hughes Invention Was this oil drilling device really a Howard Hughes invention?
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 Cast Iron Eagle Did this 12-foot-high eagle once grace the old Grand Central Station in Manhattan?
- Also with Tukufu Zuberi 32' Ford Roadster Was this car among the popular hot rods that raced out at the dry lakes in the 1930s?
This is a place for opinions, comments, questions and discussion; a place where viewers of History Detectives can express their points of view and connect with others who value history. We ask that posters be polite and respectful of all opinions. History Detectives reserves the right to delete comments that don’t conform to this conduct. We will not respond to every post, but will do our best to answer specific questions, or address an error.