By LESLIE COLLINS
October 17, 2012
When the National Geographic Channel paid a visit to Kansas City, one Northeast resident made the cut for Nat Geo’s show, “America’s Lost Treasures.”
“It was really interesting. They were all so professional,” Northeast resident Kent Dicus said of the show. “Not only did people turn out en masse, but also the featured items were so interesting and diverse.”
For several hours, Dicus waited in line at Union Station in early January to show off the daguerreotype of his great-great-grandfather Thomas Jefferson Dobyns, a daguerreian who owned a chain of photography studios in New York City, New Orleans, St. Louis and other cities along the Mississippi River during the 1850s.
“I knew he was pretty prominent in his field; I just thought it was interesting that I had a daguerreotype that was of him,” Dicus said.
Kansas City marked the sixth stop for the newly launched “America’s Lost Treasures,” and the Kansas City episode aired in August. The show filmed in 10 U.S. cities and aspired to find those “lost treasures” of historical value. Hosts Kinga Philipps and Curt Doussett each picked their top three objects in each city and then narrowed it down to one winner at each stop. In Kansas City, Gina Lundblade won $10,000 for her artifact, a rare Native American beaded tobacco bag valued at $20,000. Lundblade inherited the bag from her great-aunt.
Lundblade’s Native American artifact and the other winning objects will be displayed in a year-long exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.
While in Kansas City, the National Geographic Channel used local experts to research the worth and authenticity of items. Hyde Park resident Jason Roske, owner and auctioneer of KC Auction Company, LLC, was featured multiple times on the show.
“It was exhilarating,” Roske said of being on national television. “It was kind of neat. I don’t know how else to say it.”
For 30 years, Roske has worked in the auctioning and antiques business. He’s been featured on local news stations, but never on national television, he said.
“It was humbling to be one of the guys from Kansas City who was chosen to be on there,” he said.
Some of Roske’s favorite treasures from Kansas City didn’t make the host’s top picks. One of those included a sterling silver snuff box that was presented to Henry Clay in 1846 from the citizens of Kentucky. A Kentucky politician, Clay served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives for three terms and as the Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829.
“It’s a stunning piece of American history,” Roske said.
However, “America’s Lost Treasure’s” had already featured a sterling silver item in a different city, Roske explained.
Another item that’s indelible in Roske’s mind is the scrapbook made of human skin, also known as an anthropodermic bibliopegy.
The scrapbook originated from a medical college in northern Missouri, where medical students often used cadaver skins to create items like scrapbooks and wallets. Roske said the practice has been around for about 600 years.
“It’s an extremely interesting novelty, but it’s also a part of medical history, too,” he said.
Pictures inside the scrapbook depict “college life,” showcasing doctors, interns and cadaver work, Roske said.
The scrapbook is circa 1900 and Roske said he’s pretty confident one side came from around the knee.
“It’s kind of creepy, but it’s super cool, too,” he said.
Dicus’ daguerreotype grabbed Doussett’s attention and made it in to his top three picks.
Dicus learned his daguerreotype is worth $3,500 to $6,000.
“I was really surprised because usually when I see them (daguerreotypes) around, they’re usually around $35 or $50 bucks,” Dicus said.
During the show, Doussett brought the daguerreotype to Thomas Edmondson, a local historical photography expert, to determine the authenticity.
“That’s really unusual,” Edmondson said. “There were thousands of daguerreians in this country and most of the daguerreians are unknown and most of their sitters are unknown. To be able to have an identified sitter and photographer and have them be the same person is really great.
“I would tell Kent that he has a very important image that’s important to Kansas City and the history of photography. He’s lucky to have it.”
Doussett visited Dicus’ home to reveal the news and Dicus told Northeast News he was surprised that others outside his family found it as fascinating as he did.
“I think you’ve got an amazing piece of family history here,” Doussett told Dicus.
For the Kansas City finale, a camera boom, light stands and wireless monitors filled Kansas City Museum’s Corinthian Hall. Crew members gathered the extras into a separate room, making them promise not to reveal the winner or finalists before the show’s air date.
Completed in 1910, the historic Corinthian Hall became grand once again, displaying the Great Hall’s decorative marble staircase and ceiling accents of French Renaissance tradition.
“It was a really exciting opportunity,” Kansas City Museum Historic House Director Christopher Leitch said. “We’ve been under construction for so long and feeling so out of pocket about everything, that we were really excited to be on TV. It was a nice opportunity to do something glamourous and very positive.”
In addition to featuring the Grand Hall during the “big reveal,” camera shots also showed the outside of the museum and the Concourse.
Although he hoped the show would have explained more of Corinthian Hall’s history, Leitch admitted that, “What you see on television is about one percent of what actually happened.”
Roske agreed and said that he spent four hours filming his second day for a two minute segment.
“There’s a lot of down time. You’re sitting there for two hours sometimes doing nothing and then you have to jump in front of the camera and look fresh and interesting,” Roske said.
Although the camera crews are long gone, “America’s Lost Treasures” provided an opportunity to showcase not only Kansas City, but Historic Northeast, Dicus said.
Not only did he learn more about his great-great-grandfather, he learned that those family keepsakes can also be a true treasure.