Civil War Deringers

By Jennifer Silverman, Series Producer
14 August 2012
Category: Follow Up

Every story on History Detectives brings surprises, but this season, we had the same unwelcome revelation a number of times: disputed ownership of the artifact.

We expected this on our story about Bob Dylan’s Newport Guitar – that is the inherent mystery – but the issue appeared again and again as the production season continued.

When the Civil War Deringers episode originally aired, we received multiple comments and opinions on the website and Facebook about who really owns the John P. Thompson deringer pistols. It is a fascinating discussion; my father, a retired attorney, even gave me a call to discuss.

But History Detectives is not an attorney; we actually do not know which party, legally, owns the pistols.  It depends on circumstance, state laws, intent, documentation – the list goes on and on. 

We seek to solve mysteries, highlighting hidden facets and great themes of American history along the way.  Tracking down John P. Thompson was always the goal, even after the investigation took a sudden turn.

When our Series Researcher, Margot, found Lesley Foster, the Thompson descendant, it was hard to judge who was more shocked – Lesley, who received a call out of the blue that someone was investigating a family heirloom not seen since 1978 – or Margot, who had been searching for details about Thompson for months and suddenly hit the mother lode of family history.

We always say the investigation tells the story, and this is where we had wound up.  It was, admittedly, a difficult shoot.  We knew there was the possibility that neither party would be pleased with the outcome. We were lucky that Wes Cowan was the detective.  He deals with issues of disputed ownership at his auction house, and was just the right person to navigate these waters during research and filming.

As for the final outcome, to my knowledge, the issue is still unresolved between the families.  We will let you know if we learn anything.

And as mentioned, Wes deals with lots of issues regarding the artifacts consigned to his auction house.  Here’s what he has to say about fakes and disputed ownership.

Web Extra: Wes on Fakes

History Detectives host Wes Cowan talks about fakes.


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