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History Detectives: Hot Town Poster; Andrew Jackson's Mouth; Modoc Basket

HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray reunites the face of an Andrew Jackson statue with its mouth.
Stephanie Berger
HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray reunites the face of an Andrew Jackson statue with its mouth.

Airs Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 9 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. 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.

"Hot Town Poster" - The words and images on this poster draw battle lines. We see a photo of what looks like a stern police officer, a clenched fist, and the wording: “Hot Town – Pigs in the Streets…But the streets belong to the people! Dig it?” Who made this poster and why? We see one more clue along the bottom: the words “Sunshine Jubilee.”

HISTORY DETECTIVES talks with an expert on political graphics, meets a retired police officer that worked for the Chicago police during the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and finally narrows to one individual who brings all the pieces together.


"Andrew Jackson's Mouth" - Thirty-five years ago a collector traded some duck decoys for an item inside a Sunbeam electric iron box. This item was wrapped in sheepskin, a mouth and chin carved out of wood.

Articles and a letter at the bottom of the box say this mouth was part of a figurehead of President Andrew Jackson affixed to the bow of USS Constitution until protestors vandalized the carving in the 1830s. Could this wooden mouth have once adorned USS Constitution? HISTORY DETECTIVES gets clues from a USS Constitution historian, and a historian in 19th century woodcarving.

"Modoc Basket" - Our contributor believes she has a basket woven by a woman who played a pivotal role in the Indian Wars that helped define the settlement of the West. The weaver worked the name “Toby” into the pattern of the basket. Could this be Toby Riddle, the woman who thrust her body into the line of fire to save the life of a peace negotiator? Riddle’s fluency in English and the Modoc language positioned her as a mediator between the two nations. Congress rewarded her bravery with a life-long pension.

Did Toby Riddle weave this basket? HISTORY DETECTIVES consults with an historian of Indian Wars and an appraiser who specializes in Native American baskets and finds a key clue in the hands of Toby Riddle’s great great granddaughter.

HISTORY DETECTIVES is on Facebook, and you can follow @histdetectives on Twitter.