Copperhead Cane

The Case:

A viewer from Lancaster, Missouri inherited a wooden cane topped with a coiled snake made of bronze or copper.

The snake’s mouth gapes open exposing a menacing pair of fangs. According to the family story, the copperhead cane belonged to our viewer’s great-great grandfather, Henry Clay Dean, a prominent figure Mark Twain mentioned in his book Life on the Mississippi.

Dean vehemently opposed the Civil War. He was a member of a powerful anti-Lincoln group who called themselves “Peace Democrats.”

Republicans, in an effort to defame them, nicknamed the group “Copperheads” after the snake known for striking without warning.

Why would a “Peace Democrat” embrace such a derogatory symbol?

History Detectives heads to Dean’s stomping grounds in Iowa to track the story behind the Copperhead Cane.

Discuss this story

Season 8, Episode 2

Wes Cowan Location:
Iowa and New Jersey

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