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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. The table, at right, incorporates many of these patriotic symbols into its design.

J. Beal Windsor chair

Q: I have a Windsor chair marked "J. Beal Jr." under the seat. Can you tell me how old it is?

A: J. Beal was a chair maker working in New England about 1810.

Jackson's 'frog'

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Mystery box?

Q: 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."

A: 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.

Silver water pitcher

Q: My silver water pitcher is marked on the bottom with a circle surrounding an eagle's head. The words around the circle read "Forbes Silver Co. USA Quadruple." How old is my pitcher?

A: The Forbes Silver Co. was organized in 1894 by the Meriden Britannia Co., a large silver manufacturer in Meriden, Conn. Forbes manufactured silver-plated hollowware. The word "quadruple" indicates that your pitcher has four layers of silver plating. Meriden stopped using the word "quadruple" in its marks in 1896. Other U.S. silver-plate manufacturers dropped the word by 1912. Forbes and Meriden were among the several independent silver manufacturers that formed the International Silver Co. in 1898. It is likely that your pitcher was made in the mid-1890s.

Write to Kovels in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019.

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