Monday, July 14, 2003

Appraiser Cowan to co-host new antiques show on PBS

Meet Cincinnati's History Detective. Wes Cowan, auctioneer and frequent Antiques Roadshow appraiser, will co-host PBS' new History Detectives series (8 p.m. today-Thursday, Channels 48, 16).

Cowan is one of four experts who determine the authenticity of everything from U.S. Grant's signature at a New Jersey firehouse to bullets that killed Bonnie and Clyde.

The Terrace Park resident opened Cowan's Historic Americana Auctions, specializing in 19th century items, in 1995, after 11 years as curator of archaeology for the Cincinnati Natural History Museum. His company will have an American Indian arts auction Sept. 12-13 and an Americana auction (Civil War weaponry and photos, 19th century furniture, paintings, autographs and decorative arts) Nov. 12-13. More details at

Last week we caught up with Cowan to talk about the new series and his other TV projects.

Question: How did "Antiques Roadshow" find you?

Answer: When I heard that Antiques Roadshow was coming to Cincinnati (in 1997), I called WGBH-TV in Boston and asked if they needed a Cincinnati appraiser. They used me, and when the show really took off the next year, I was already part of the group.

Q: How did you wind up on "History Detectives"?

A: I got an e-mail from Lion Television (the producers) out of the blue about a year ago.

Q: Did you provide any tips to producers which became segments on the show?

A: The Wisconsin woman with the Bonnie and Clyde bullets (on Tuesday's show) came to me first. I don't know how she found me, but I get about a dozen e-mails a day. I gave them (producers) four or five stories - a ship captain's trumpet from the Revolutionary War, a Gilbert Stuart drawing of George Washington and some of Poncho Villa's money. This is the first season, and they were scrambling for some ideas.

Q: Do the "History Detectives" experts do all the actual research on the show?

A: No, Lion Television has a team of researchers. Because of my experience, I bring a lot to each program to make sure they're going the right way. But I don't have time to do all of (the research). I've got a business to run."

Q: So the producers know before shooting a show if an item is authentic?

A: Yes. But sometimes the historians don't know.



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