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 Birth Control Box Could this unusual wooden box be an early contraceptive device?
- Also with Tukufu Zuberi Preston Brook's Riding Crop Was this riding crop a gift from Jefferson Davis as a reward for attacking a political opponent?
- Related Investigation Continental Club Card What secrets can this business card reveal about glamour and vice in 1930s Los Angeles?
- 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 Star Spangled Banner Is this the first official copy of the national anthem?
- Also with Tukufu Zuberi Anti-Slavery Flag Did this old sheet found in a family trunk contribute to the end of slavery in 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.