With the holiday season over and the re-enacting season still a few months away, it's easy to come down with a case of cabin fever. How about a little day-trip to cure the winter blahs? If your interest in the 18th-century goes beyond simply attending events and into the realm of collecting period antiques and artifacts, then you may be interested in visiting some of our favorite antiquing hot-spots. Starting close to home (our home that is) Mount Horeb, Wisconsin features several nice antique malls, including one right downtown on the "trollway" (Norwegian humor) that has many 18th-century pieces. Several of the dealers feature authentic pewter plates, cups, tankards, brass candlesticks, primitives, and cooking grates and irons that are virtually identical to pieces shown in Collector's Illustrated. These items are not cheap, but if you are looking for the real thing to add to your collection, you just might find it in Mount Horeb!
Cedarburg, Wisconsin has several large antique malls and stores, including a nice little shop in the center of town that has several 18th-century tin, iron, brass and pewter pieces (also check out the fabric store right across the street)!
Columbus, Wisconsin (just north of Madison on Hwy 151) has several antique shops, including probably the biggest antique mall you will ever see three floors of a huge, rambling old warehouse complex. If you have something specific in mind, you will probably find it in Columbus. Be warned, however, that the good stuff is buried amongst piles of 1960's-era toys, Festival ware, and tacky decorator pieces. Columbus also has more tacky salt and pepper shakers than you can possibly imagine (do people actually collect those things?)!
Richmond, Illinois (on highway 12 just south of the Wisconsin border), features a quaint downtown area that is all antique stores close to a dozen different shops! We haven't seen too many 18th-century pieces in Richmond, but we HAVE seen many old trunks, wooden ware, and pewter pieces perfect for camp use. Another quaint antiquing town is Galena, in northwestern Illinois. Galena also features an entire downtown of antique shops and malls. It used to offer excellent antiquing, but on our last visit many shops had switched over to offering a lot of gifty items and reproductions. There are still a few good bookstores, plus a shop that sells nothing but military miniatures! Even though it has become largely arts-and-crafts there is still some good antiquing in Galena. St. Charles, Illinois offers lots of antiquing possibilities. There are half a dozen shops and malls right downtown on highway 64, plus several more shops on some of the side streets. We've seen quite a few nice reproductions in the shops there and even a few old, original, 18th-century pieces. It pays to shop around in St. Charles, as we found prices vary quite a bit from store to store.
For those in the Indiana/Michigan area, try visiting one of the many Antique malls along I-94 between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. Several of them feature 18th-century tools, pewterware, and even some old Indian artifacts.
If your interest is strictly military, check out Watervliet, Michigan (just east of Berrien Springs). There is a nice place right downtown that has a remarkable collection of military artifacts. These are mostly American Civil War items, but there are some good books and nice 18th-century things as well- we picked up an original Brown Bess bayonet there last June! You won't find any gas-station glassware or salt-and-pepper shakers there, as the owner's motto is "if it ain't older than me, it ain't an antique"!
We didn't manage to break away from the Warsaw event long enough to visit the antique malls, so we can't say if they have any 18th century items. We heard from others that Warsaw has some nice things at reasonable prices.
For those even farther east, there is a huge antique mall on I-75 just north of Findlay, Ohio. They were just about ready to close when we visited, so we can't give a full report, but the mall is BIG and is sure to have some authentic items. We saw a lot of iron and pewterware at reasonable prices, and it was all well displayed considering how much they had.