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Archive for Sunday, May 18, 2003

American symbols popular collectibles

May 18, 2003

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The idea of a Memorial Day holiday started in 1866, after the Civil War.

One story is that a drugstore owner in Waterloo, N.Y., suggested that all of the shops close for one day to honor the soldiers killed during the Civil War. On May 5, the people of the town closed their stores and put flowers on the graves of the soldiers. Others claim that Southern women put flowers on the graves of soldiers at a cemetery in Richmond, Va., on May 30, 1866. Retired Maj. Gen. Jonathan Logan planned another ceremony on May 30, 1868, that honored the dead with flowers and songs. The annual ceremony, held on what became known as Decoration Day, continued to be celebrated on May 30.

In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day, and it became a public holiday in parts of the country. It was not until 1971 that Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday, to be celebrated the last Monday in May. Memorial Day celebrations include flags and bunting, eagles and other symbols of American wars and fallen soldiers.

I have a few pieces of light-blue kitchenware decorated with small, dark-blue tulip decals. My set includes a casserole, three pitchers and two covered pots. Each one is marked "Bake Ware USA." I have been told the pieces are "Blue Tulip Stoneware." Is this correct? What are my pieces worth?

Most collectors refer to your kitchenware as "Cronin Blue Tulip." It was made by the Cronin China Co. of Minerva, Ohio. The same decal, in light brown, can be found on yellow kitchenware called Cronin Yellow Tulip. Cronin was in business from 1934 until 1956. Tulip Ware was made in the 1950s for A&P grocery stores. Most pieces sell for $5 to $35.

A friend of mine has a construction business in Nashville, Tenn. In the process of dismantling an abandoned house not far from Andrew Jackson's home, he found a cast-iron frog. It weighs 3 1/2 pounds and is about 3 inches tall. An inscription on the frog's back reads "I croak for the Jackson wagon." What does that mean?

Collectors used to think this frog was related to Andrew Jackson's campaigns for president in 1828 and 1832. The gift shop at The Hermitage, Jackson's home, even sold reproductions of the famed frog. But in 1980, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution discovered that the frog was an 1880s advertising premium for a wagon company in Jackson, Mich. An original advertising frog is valued at $200 to $300 today.

Can you help identify a box that belonged to my grandfather? He was born in 1888. The box is small and triangular, with curved corners. It has a hinged cover. The outside is covered with leather and the inside is lined with red silk. On the bottom the box is marked "Made in USA, Deline, Denver."

The Deline Box Co. is still in business in Denver. The size, shape and approximate age of your box lead us to believe it was made to hold men's collars. Men would store a few collars in the box and use them to dress up their shirts. Collar boxes from the Victorian era and the early 20th century were made using various materials, including celluloid, leather and wood.

My two glass candlesticks belonged to my great-grandmother. They are a transparent greenish-yellow color. The base of each is a wide bell shape. From the base, the shaft winds up in a spiral to a wide candleholder on the top. My great-grandmother never lived anywhere with electricity. I know she used these candlesticks to help light her house. They are 9 1/2 inches tall.

Your candlesticks are made of "Vaseline" glass. The word "Vaseline" was first used in the 1930s to describe yellow-green pressed glass, which was first made by American glass companies in the 1870s. The color is similar to the color of Vaseline, a well-known brand of petroleum jelly. Your candlesticks were most likely made by the U.S. Glass Co., founded in Pittsburgh in 1891. Their design -- a large, hollow base with a long central shaft and a wide candleholder -- was marketed as a "reversible candlestick-chalice." A pair is valued at about $120.

My family has had a pig-shaped cookie jar for many years. The pig is wearing a red scarf around his neck, and he has red facial features and feet. There are red flowers and green circles on his overalls. The word "Smiley" is on the bottom, along with "Patented U.S.A." Can you tell me the age and maker?

Your Smiley Pig cookie jar was made by Shawnee Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio. Shawnee was in business from 1937 until 1961. The Smiley cookie jar was one of Shawnee's most successful products. The jar was made in several variations of color and decoration. Your jar, with red clovers and red neckerchief, is valued at more than $600.

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