Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

Antiques Roadshow Came To Town

April 01, 2010

How do you know you’re an “Antiques Roadshow” junkie?  If you plan your schedule around each new episode, know the stories behind the biggest appraisals, and clamor to get a ticket when you discover the show is coming to town.  Check on all accounts.  When we learned the cast of PBS’ top-ranked program was making a side trip to Wisconsin Dells as part of its taping in nearby Madison, we jumped at the chance to talk to the “stars” of the show. So, you may be asking, what exactly compelled them to travel out of their way to record a segment in the Dells?  None other than the provenance and historical significance of the H.H. Bennett Studio, a state historic site located right downtown.  Bennett, a famed 18th century landscape photographer, is known as “the man who made Wisconsin Dells famous.”  His photographs of the Wisconsin River with its craggy sandstone bluffs and mysterious caverns were what first attracted visitors to the area for rowboat tours.  Photography buffs also know him for his stereoscopic views and his invention of stop-action photography.  And it was those last two items that prompted appraiser C. Wesley Cowan to make a pitch for stopping at Bennett’s studio.  Cowan knew of H.H. Bennett and had collected stereoscopic views himself. Just as Bennett’s family meticulously preserved the photographer’s studio, Cowan noted that “the show has made average Americans more appreciative of family items, compelling people to keep those pieces in the family.”   Our giddy chats with Cowan, host Mark Walberg and executive producer Marsha Bemko quickly turned to news of the show’s first million dollar appraisal - a set of four pieces of carved Chinese jade and celadon - which had just been announced the day before.  Walberg attributed the success of the program, which could easily be described as equal parts adventure, history lesson and treasure hunt, this way: “The American dream of finding something that turns out to be worth a fortune gets people to tune in, and then they get hooked by all the incredibly interesting history.” Speaking of family finds, the rare stereoscopic views housed at the Bennett studio were appraised by Cowan in the hundreds of dollars each.  As for the Madison taping, you’ll just have to tune in to see if anyone came close to unearthing another million dollar find.


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Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

701 Superior Street, PO Box 390
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965-0390
(800) 223-3557
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