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History Detectives: Japanese Carved Cane; Kittery Telescope; Baker's Gold

Scott Hirotsu inherited this cane carved with Japanese characters from his grandparents. He wonders if the message will tell him more about his family’s history in WW II relocation camps.
Courtesy of Ann McGarry
Scott Hirotsu inherited this cane carved with Japanese characters from his grandparents. He wonders if the message will tell him more about his family’s history in WW II relocation camps.

Airs Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

America's top gumshoes are back to prove once again that an object found in an attic or backyard might be anything but ordinary.

Your Investigation

If you need more help with your own investigations, visit Detective Techniques, with guides on how to research a WWII military record, rock and mineral identification, and more information on art and photo evaluation. You can also find a step-by-step guide to genealogy, researching buildings, document evaluation and much more.

Wesley Cowan, independent appraiser and auctioneer; Gwendolyn Wright, historian and professor of architecture, Columbia University; Elyse Luray, independent appraiser and expert in art history; Dr. Eduardo Pagán, professor of history and American studies at Arizona State University; and Tukufu Zuberi, professor of sociology and the director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, leave no stone unturned as they travel around the country to explore the stories behind local folklore, prominent figures and family legends.

"Japanese Carved Cane" - A California man hopes the Japanese characters on this hand-carved cane will unlock the mysteries of his family’s past. The cane belonged to his grandparents who were sent to an Arizona relocation camp after Pearl Harbor. He can’t read the words carved into the cane, and his grandparents have passed away. He asks "History Detectives" to uncover the story behind this cane. An interpreter translates the Japanese words. A curator of art from Japanese internment camps places this cane into the tradition of “gaman” – the art of living with the unbearable. The investigation unravels a surprising clue about the cane’s original owner.


"Kittery Telescope" - When a Kittery Point, Maine, man moved into his great aunt’s house he discovered an unusual wooden telescope. No one in his family knows where it came from or how long it’s been in the family. Even though his family is full of Navy men, our contributor hopes it belonged to his ancestor William Bray, who served on the Raleigh, one of America’s first naval war ships during the American Revolution. Antique dealers can’t date the telescope. They’ve never seen one like this. "History Detectives" finds out whether this telescope was used during the American Revolution.

"Baker's Gold" - A viewer from Colorado thinks he may have discovered a gem of Gold Rush memorabilia when he found an unusual drawing. This drawing depicts four huge gold nuggets, weighing one, two, six and ten pounds. Someone has overlaid the nuggets with curious, almost cartoon-like pictures: a bag of gold dust, a scowling turtle, a Colt revolver, and the profile of a man’s grinning face. The signature, I.W. Baker, catches our contributor’s eye. Could this be the Isaac Baker famous for his photographs of the Gold Rush? And did miners actually find gold nuggets that large? "History Detectives" visits Baker’s haunts in California and talks with Gold Rush curators to reveal the story behind this drawing.

"History Dectectives" is on Facebook, and you can follow @histdetectives on Twitter.

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

Our five intrepid detectives are back with new investigations and fascinating stories in season nine of the "History Detectives."
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