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 Jim Thorpe Ticket Is this ticket evidence of a chapter of Thorpe's career forgotten by history: as a professional basketball player?
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 NC-4: First Across The Atlantic Is this piece of fabric a remnant from the first transatlantic flight?
- Related Investigation Poison Pin Are these prototypes for poison suicide pins carried by spy plane pilots during the Cold War?
- Also in Emerging Modern America: 1890-1930 Fiery Cross What is the story behind this record?
- Also with Tukufu Zuberi Howard Hughes Crash Was this the instrument that chartered Howard Hughes' near fatal plunge into Beverly Hills?
- Also with Tukufu Zuberi Japanese Carved Cane What can the message on this cane expose about life behind barbed wire in World War II America?
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.