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.
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 Silent Film Reel Could this film reel could be a silent movie once lost forever to history?
- Also with Tukufu Zuberi Internment Artwork What is the story behind these watercolor paintings of a prison camp?
- Related Investigation Civil War Letters What can these letters reveal about a racially-charged massacre on a Civil War battlefield?
- Related Investigation Bonnie & Clyde's Bullets Are these the bullets that ended one of the most infamous crime-sprees in American history?
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 First Movie Studio Could a broken gateway once have been the grand entrance to a Hollywood studio?
- Also in Season 2 Cesar Chavez Banner What role did this banner play in one of the most famous civil rights campaigns in U.S. history?
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.