Death was an important part of life in the 19th century. Life expectancy was 38 to 44 years, and many babies died at birth or before they were a year old.

Mourning and the rituals that accompanied a death were very important, and lasted about a year. Black clothing was worn for the year of mourning; even the jewelry was made with black stones. Pictures, in some cases mirrors, were covered, and weekly visits to a religious service to say prayers were expected.

The next few years also included some objects that took time to make, like mourning rings and memorial pictures often created by a close relative. The picture used symbols of death and life after death. A church, tombstones, anchor, lily of the valley, forget-me-nots, urns, weeping willow trees, a coffin, candles, skulls, oak leaves and, of course, angels and the cross were part of the language.

Folk art collectors search for painted or embroidered mourning pictures that include some of these symbols and information about the deceased, including name, date of death and location. Many are signed by the artist.

This framed picture depicted willows, an urn, a tombstone, black dress, church, flowers and a weeping relative. The inscription on the tombstone says "Amos Tyler." Research found he died in 1829, probably in Massachusetts, at the age of 38. It sold for $22,140, about 10 times estimate.

Red Wing cookie jars

Q: I'm looking for the value of my Red Wing cookie jars. I have a yellow chef, blue chef and monk cookie jars in mint condition. What are they worth?

A: Red Wing Pottery began making Pierre the Chef (later just called Chef), Friar Tuck (a monk), and Katrina (a Dutch girl) cookie jars in 1941. The cookie jars were made in blue, yellow and tan. Green cookie jars were added to the line in the mid- to late 1940s. Thousands of the cookie jars were made. They were not made after the mid-1950s. The Chef, in fleck blue or fleck pink, was the only one made in 1956. These are harder to find, and they sell for the highest prices today. The yellow Chef cookie jar has sold online at retail for $20 to $60, the blue version for $30 to $77. Friar Tuck sells for $20 to $30 in yellow, $58 to $60 in blue.

Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

Tole coal scuttle, black, crackled pattern, gold bands, tapered rectangle, ball feet, domed lid, 17 by 18 inches, $45.

American Indian basket, Choctaw, Mississippi bamboo, river cane, natural dye, large diamond pattern, black, orange, tan, square base flared to round top, about 1970, 18 by 19 inches, $280.

Terra-cotta frieze, semicircular, shield, two stylized dragons, acanthus tails, egg and dart band, squared border, made up of 10 sections, $480.

Weather vane, whale, cut copper, weathered gold patina, red glass eye, stand, 6 by 17 inches, $610.

Madame Alexander doll, Cinderella, plastic, Tosca wig, blue taffeta gown, rhinestone crown, 1955, 8 inches, $920.

Garden settee, Georgian style, distressed hardwood, banded circle and slat back, slat seat, scroll arms, 20th century, 38 by 55 inches, $1,045.