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Admiring Some Collectibles That Honor Veterans

The observance of Memorial Day, which began after the Civil War, honors our nation’s armed service personnel killed in wartime, a fact we should all remember as we enjoy the extra day off, picnics and barbecues.

Many antique collectors seek patriotic advertising pieces and memorial relics from past wars as a way to commemorate our veterans throughout the year.

All wars involve both the military and the civilians in the sense of support and sacrifice. So, there also are advertising campaigns and memorial artifacts that were just as important on the home front. These can be fun to look at since they reflect daily life, hobbies, social values and the lingo of the time.

I don’t have any war items other than the World War II United States Savings Bond stamp album shown in the column. It belonged to my mom back in the ’40s and though she is long dead, I keep it near her diaries that she maintained for many years.

During war years, even civilians felt the pain of war deprivation and the importance of the conflict and many took an active part in supporting the troops in so many ways.

Memorial Day’s beginnings can be traced to different cities at about the same time, though in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared the city of Waterloo, N.Y. its official birthplace. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.

Proclaimed an official holiday on May 5, 1868, by national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic General John Logan, it was first celebrated in our country’s capitol the following May 30 when flowers were placed on both Confederate and Union soldier graves in Arlington National Cemetery.

Northern states began to officially recognize the day of recognizing the dead right after the Civil War. The South didn’t officially join in until after World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring the dead combatants of the Civil War to honoring the war dead for all Americans who fought in any war.

Just this week though, I read a current news item on Memorial Day that traces the very first celebration to a memorial service held in Charleston, S.C. and organized by freed slaves at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club.

This celebration seems to have been overlooked by Charleston residents in the 1880s as the city was rebuilt. Only recently a newspaper account of this First Decoration Day discovered by a Yale professor David Blight in 1996 has led to this recognition. (Read the entire interesting article by writer David Roos at history.com.)

Civil War collectibles are big items in the antiques world of course and our West Virginia Independence Hall has many battle flags, photographs and artifacts of significance to share with the public.

War collectibles include cannonballs, uniform insignias and buttons, bullets (some framed), flags and paper ephemera, especially promotions signed by President Abraham Lincoln and other presidents depending on the conflict. Flags were proudly carried by regiments on the battlefield.

War souvenir collectors today search for everything from badges and belt buckles, to posters and maps.

Many collectors search for one particular war or conflict. Others focus a collection on a particular category of item, such as weapons, helmets, uniforms, photographs or ephemera.

Japanese and German war items are two subcategories of importance in today’s marketplace. Samurai swords, Nazi items and even toy soldiers are big with collectors.

Many of the old war items turn up at auctions and antiques shops as individuals clean out the attic and discover souvenirs from a family member who served. Collectors can find them just about anywhere from the neighborhood yard sale to first class antiques shops.

Collectors honor our armed forces by valuing these treasures in a very special way.


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