Wednesday, August 5, 2009


1. A set of three dresses: a purple and green striped silk open gown, c 1770 with a light brown quilted petticoat 19th century, a child's ivory satin gown c 1775 and a two piece, bodice and skirt, embroidered outfit with a chemise undergarment. Late 18th century.

2. A late 17th century sweet purse with gilt and silk embroidery.

3. An silk caraco. 18th century. French.

4. A two piece, bodice and skirt, embroidered outfit with a chemise undergarment. Late 18th century.

5. A late 18th century or very early 19th century young man's quilted waistcoat in salmon satin.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


We all have a passion or passions in life. One of mine is collecting 17th and 18th century clothing and accessories. Another one is American history. I have a long standing relationship with Garfield Farm Inn & Tavern which is a fantastic local living history museum. In the past they have asked me to do presentations. When they approached me this year about doing a lecture I had an idea. Why not do an exhibit? The idea transformed into a vision. Why not exhibit my 17th and 18th century collection? The vision became a project. The project was to decide where to have the exhibit and how to display the collection. The project developed into a partnership. It was decided that the collection would be exhibited in the various rooms at Garfield Inn and Tavern. The partnership produced an exhibit. The exhibit was wonderful. It sounds simple doesn't it? Well there were mailing lists that had to be comprised, a vignette to be photographed, a postcard to be designed and printed, a mass mailing of over 2500 cards, publicity to be set in place, an arrangement to borrow mannequins from the Aurora Historical Society, the pickup and delivery of the mannequins, a three day display setup and a total of 505 miles traveled back and forth between my home and the museum. Somewhere in between all that I think I might have had one or two nervous breakdowns. I'm not sure. The results, however, were spectacular. The early clothing made the tavern and inn become alive. The day of the exhibit was sunny with a bright blue sky. We had visitors from Missouri, Wisconsin and Indiana. A number of people from The Northwest Territory Alliance, which is a re enactment group, dressed up in 18th clothing. How cool! Would you believe some people stayed FOUR hours! The next day I spent a solid 7 hours taking down the exhibit and packing. I was exhausted but oh so happy. I had never seen my entire collection out at the same time let alone on mannequins. WOW! I was even impressed. You might ask if I would do another exhibit and my answer would be not in the foreseeable future. However I did learn one thing. Ideas can be dangerous.

I want to thank everyone who helped with the exhibit. Also a special thanks to the wonderful people who took the time to come and visit me, the exhibit and Garfield Farm.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I have an undeniable passion for 17th and 18th century clothing and textiles. The richness of the fabric, the complexity of the embroidery and the stately elegance of the design is astounding. Take that passion and mix it with a historic site. It's a natural. When I was approached by Garfield Farm Museum's assistant site manager, William Wolcott, and asked to due a lecture about clothing, I said "I'll do one better. How about an exhibit?" Thus the birth of a project that in reality is a labor of love.

I will have the pleasure of sharing my private collection of 18th century clothing and appropriate accessories with you at Garfield Farm Inn Museum, La Fox, Illinois. Some of the examples on display will be open robes, a man's matching frock coat and breeches, various waistcoats, a child's dress, numerous stomachers and stays, caps, shoes and miscellaneous sundries. There will also be a few choice examples of late 17th century items.

Take a trip back in time and get a taste of history. Join me, attired in 18th century clothing, at the picturesque 1840's Garfield Farm Inn Muesum and view my collection in an intimate setting located in the historic inn and tavern. Take a stroll and wander around this fascinating and important living history farm. Garfield Farm Inn Museum is listed in the National Register of Historic Sites.

Saturday, July 25th, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m..
Garfield Farm Inn Museum, La Fox, Illinois
(Just off IL. Route 38, 4 miles west of Geneva)

For more details:
Donna Finegan (847) 991-3911 or website or email address

Garfield Farm Inn Museum (630) 584-8485 or website or email address

Hope to see you on the 25th!


Friday, June 19, 2009

CALIBOGUS (noun) A rum drink with spruce beer and molasses added.*

*"Colonial American English"


Last weekend I traveled back in time to the 18th century. You heard me correctly and I didn't even use a time machine. Cool, huh? My husband and I attended the "Klash On The Kankakee" for their "Grand Encampment". The Revoluntary War Reenactment was put on by The Northwest Territory Alliance, There were two Fife and Drum groups, River Valley and Theatiki, who played outstanding period music and rousing marches, an artillery demonstration complete with LOUD, exploding cannons, a tar & feathering,(not so much fun for the poor gentleman) a multitude of British and Colonial soldiers and a large civilian encampment where my friends, Dawn, Vaughn and their daughter Dori, were camped. There was even a section for the merchants who sold everything to outfit an 18th century reenactor. Turkey Roost Traders ( who are Purveyors of Fine Wearables and Wm. Booth, Draper who sells woolen, flax and hemp fabrics ( some of the fine merchants that were selling their wares. Everyone was dressed in WONDERFUL 18th century clothing. What a feast for the senses. The campfire smoke wafting on the breeze,the food cooking on those fires teasing our taste buds, rows and rows of tents with all the costumed participants going about their 18th century lives and the music filtering thru the trees made me believe I had left the 21st century behind. Life back then was basic and simple. Despite the hardships, the ever present dangers, the lack of modern conveniences and the extremely hard and physically challenging work perhaps our 18th century ancestors could teach us a thing or two about what really matters in life; Family, our religious beliefs, a strong work ethic, our country and it's ideals and being a part of something greater than ourselves. Not a bad history lesson.

First two pictures are from "Turkey Roost Traders" tent.
Third picture are the colonials firing their cannon.
Fourth picture are my friends Dawn and Vaughn and their tent and camp.

To view pictures from the encampment go to
click on "Find your event"
click on "NWTA Grand Encampment"
click on "Klash on Kankakee"

Friday, June 12, 2009


I love words. I especially love olde 17th and 18th century words. Their definitions and usage are fascinating. I am sadden that today they have fallen out of favor soooooo every now and then I will post an olde word along with it's definition. Try using them in a conversation and see what happens. You may even impress your friends or at the very least they may think you are little strange. Have fun with them.

GYNECANDRICAL (adj.) - Mixt or promisciuous dancing. Men and women together. In 1684 Increase Mather deplored. "There are questions regarding gynecandrical dancing or that which is commonly called mixt promiscuously dancing viz men and women together. Now this we affirm to be utterly unlawful and it cannot be tolerated in such a place as New England without great sin".*

* Colonial American English

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


The Heartland Antique Show in Richmond, IND was this past weekend and it was a huge success. I got to visit with old friends and I had the opportunity to meet some new and wonderfully interesting people. That is a BIG plus in this business. People travel from all over the country to attend antique shows. They come from different backgrounds and live very different lives but we share a common thread and that is the love of antiques. For a brief day or two we talk about those antiques, our collections, our houses, our unique decorating styles, our gardens, our 18th century or Civil War reenacting groups or we just share funny stories. The outside world and all it's problems and worries melt away. Sure for us dealers it is a LOT OF WORK! A friend of mine, Susan who helped me do this show, (bless her heart) remarked to her husband, "They do a months worth of work in two or three days". But where else could you go and be with other people, both customers and dealers, who love what you love and are all under one roof? This time I met or should I say re-met a man who saw me at a Civil War show probably about 8 to 10 years ago. I spent time with a woman from South Carolina who owns and runs a B&B. And then there was a folk artist from Missouri who creates period correct gourd containers. That is just the customers. Every show always has new dealers or dealers that you did not have the chance to chat with in the past. They are a wealth of information. Yes shows are work but they are also FUN!!

While walking the show, I came across two little treasures. Some people call them infant pincushions or pillows, layette pincushions or welcoming pillows. Pincushions have been around in England since the 16th century or even possibly earlier. Welcoming pillows are a special type of pincushion and were at their height of popularity from the last quarter of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century or approximately from 1770 to 1890. They were square or rectangular in shape, larger in size than the standard pincushions which measured 2 to 3 inches, stuffed with saw dust or maybe even sand, covered with silk, linen or cotton and were decorated with stuck straight pins that formed either a design, a message/verse or both. Some were signed or initialed while others were not.

"Angels guard thee, lovely blossom
Hover round and shield from ill
Crown thy parents' largest wishes
And their fondest hopes fulfill"

"May thy fragrance ever be
Like the rosebud in the tree
With a luster more sublime
And thy every virture shine"

Shorter messages were more common such as "Welcome Sweet Babe" or "Welcome Little Stranger" Some messages reflect the high death rates of babies and their mothers.

"Bless the babe and save the mother"

"God bless the babe and may it live and a deal of comfort may it give"

"May He whose cradle was a manger bless and protect this little stranger".

Pins were made by hand until about 1830 and were extremely expensive. The pincushion itself was given as a gift after the birth of a baby. Since there was a high mortality rate during childbirth it was more prudent to wait to deliver the gift until after the child was born. There was also a superstitious belief that it could increase the mother's pain during childbirth.

"For every pin a pain" and "More pins, more pain."


After the mother received this lovely and extremely expensive gift, she went on to probably use the pins to fasten the baby clothes. The pins were dangerous. They would sometimes stick the baby causing pain, illness or even death. Older infants could remove the pins, possibly swallowing them and causing servere harm. Thank goodness the safety pin was invented during the 19th century but unfortunately they were not available until 1878.
The first and second pictures are of Donna Finegan Antiques' booth.
The third picture are two welcoming pillows from Perkins & Menson Antiques,
442 Main Street, Townsend, MA 01469 (978) 729-5423.
The fourth picture is a welcoming pillow from D. Finegan's private collection.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I have a weakness for early fabrics. The texture from years of numerous washings and the wear of generations can not be easily duplicated today. I not only adore the fabrics themselves but also their names: baize, fearnaught, everlasting, linsey-woolsey, moreen, dimity, diaper, tammy. Such creative names. The list of stuff * is almost endless. But my all time favorite is a simple fabric, homespun linen. I love the feel, the texture and the look of linen. And when I think of all the many steps and the work involved to produce a homespun linen sheet, well I'm in awe. When linen comes off the loom it is brown. It can be dyed or it can be bleached. One would think that after all the work and the many steps involved to get raw flax to a linen sheet, the bleaching process would be easy. Not so in the 18th century. Before 1760, the bleaching process was time consuming and labor intensive.
1. Soak the linen 30 to 40 hours in warm water, rinse and dry.
2. Soak in lye and cow dung for 48 hours.
3. Stretch cloth over the grass in bleach-yard.
4. Wash off the cow dung.
5. Beat cloth with "bat staffs" for 2 to 3 hours.
6. Place cloth into boiling lye and soak 24 hours.
7. Wash cloth. Stretch it over the bleach-green 4 hours.
8. Beat with bat staffs.
9. Repeat the last three steps for 8 to 10 days.
10.Place cloth in buttermilk for 1 or 2 nights.
11.Wash and beat the cloth again and then stretch it over the bleach-green.
12. Sour it again with buttermilk.
13. Repeat the process for another week, until the cloth is white enough.

OH MY GOODNESS!!!! This process takes a month to complete. If I didn't have a respect for our ancestors before I sure do now.
*Textiles in general and especially a lustrous, English fabric of cotton or wool.

Friday, May 22, 2009


It is no secret that women go to extreme lengths to be attractive. Million of dollars are spent on cosmetics each year for the sake of beauty. It was no different in the 18th century. Face patches were extremely popular for both women and men. They were made from the gummed pieces of taffeta, silk or even leather and were placed on the checks to heighten the brilliancy of the complexion and to hide the pock marks. They were made in different shapes, like stars, crescents & lozenges & were often dyed brilliant colors. Other people who did not want to wear patches choose to use a thick coat of face powder. Recipe: Several thin plates of lead, a big pot of vinegar, a bed of horse manure, water, perfume and a tinting agent. Steep the lead in the pot of vinegar, and rest it in a bed of manure for at least three weeks. When the lead finally softens to the point where it can be pounded into a flaky white powder(chemical reaction between the vinegar and lead causes the lead to turn white), grind it to a fine powder. Mix with water, and let dry in the sun. After the powder is dry, mix with the appropriate amount of perfume and tinting dye. Yuck! Since the base of the powder was lead it was also very poisonous! All for the sake of being fashionable and beautiful.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I love early American history; the way of life, traditions and customs. So ever now and then I will be writing about different aspects of early America. Recently while going thru my books I came across a favorite of mine titled "The Pocumtuc Housewife". The chapter "The Physical Director" is charming, innocent, funny and the remedies are oh so NOT to be tried.
1. A slice of salt pork spread with pepper and bound on with a strip of red flannel will cure a sore throat. Or in a pinch, a stocking taken warm from the foot and bound about the throat is efficacious.
2. For an ordinary headache take a shovel full of clean wood ashes, put them into clear cold water. When it has settled drink the water. It may cause vomitting; if it does the headache will be relieved the sooner.
3. For an earache soak the feet in warm water, roast an onion and put the heart of it into the ear as hot as can be borne and bind roasted onion on the feet.
4. An ointment made of ground worms simmered in lard, and rubbed on with the hand is excellent when sinews are drawn up.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


If you are very lucky, every now and then you get an opportunity to do something unusual and exciting. May 16th and 17th I will get that opportunity. My very talented and gifted friend Susan Havens-Morris , who is the sole owner of Middleburg Folk Art Studio (, will be exhibiting at the Colonial Faire at The Endview Plantation in Newport News, VA. ( The best part is that I get to help! But wait. It gets even better. Both Susan and I have to be attired in proper 18th century clothing. That includes petticoats, caraco jackets, stockings, hats and more. Oh my!! The absolute best part is that instead of displaying her wonderful paper mache items under a tent, Susan has envisioned creating a modular Mount Vernon. That's right. Mount Vernon as is George Washington's home . How cool is that? I told you she was gifted and talented. The room at Mount Vernon Susan choose will be the "Green" dining room complete with a fireplace mantle and windows that open. A beautiful and historic setting, being dressed in 18th century clothing and helping a dear friend sell her wares in a reproduction of Mt Vernon is a true fantasy. I can't wait to go.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Times at Fox Valley

The March Fox Valley Antique Show is now over and I must say it was GREAT! The show was visually a feast for the eyes, with a treasure waiting for everyone. The participating dealers are all top notch professionals who tirelessly decorate their booths and always produce stunning results. The five-minute presentations were well attended as was the lecture on "Collecting Lincoln." Such fun! As always it was a delight to see my customers who have turned into such good friends over the years. 
Sharing the love of antiques and history has given me the opportunity and privledge to meet some really great people. And then there is Pat, my dear friend from Michigan, who drove in on Friday to specifically help me set up my booth. She has done this for years out of the goodness of her heart. I could never begin to repay her kindness. 

Also this show I had the help of another friend, Susan, who drove all Thursday night from Virginia to make sure she was with me on Friday for setup. How wonderfully crazy is that? Thank you, Thank you and Thank you again! I am truly blessed to have both Pat and Susan in my life. If you were one of the many people who came to the show I say thank you and please come again. If you were unable to attend I hope to see you at the next Fox Valley Show in October. Please come by my booth, introduce yourself, say "hi" and join my circle of friends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bring History Home...

The Fox Valley Antique Show is next weekend Saturday, March 14th and Sunday, March 15th and I am really excited. Besides showcasing in a new exhibition hall at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, IL , my booth will have a fresh look. It will be full of wonderful finds from my recent buying trips. Displayed will be painted pantry boxes from Maine, two large wallpapered boxes, indigo blue and cream homespun blankets, a pristine stamped grain bag complete with it's original ties from PA, a couple of wonderful petticoats from PA., a nice selection of 19th century woman's everyday dresses, painted six board chests, a red painted dome box, a large painted brown dough bowl, an early & rare woven mattress for a rope bed plus lots, lots more.

In addition to 54 other superb dealers, the show will offer three five minute presentations; Saturday at 2:00 "Make-dos", at 3:00 "Silhouettes and Portrait Miniatures of the 19th Century" and at 4:00 "Antique Jewelry". On Sunday at 12:00 Ray McClaskey, a member of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Foundation Board, will speak on collecting Lincoln.

The image above is just a sneak peak at some of the New pieces we will be bringing. These two large, 19th century, wallpaper boxes have great floral patterns and colors.

Hope to see you all next weekend! 
My booth is #21.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Who doesn't love getting in bed and snuggling under a couple of warm blankets on a cold winter night? Blankets were the mainstay of colonial beds. When linen sheets were not available, blankets were used instead as "woolen sheets".

Traditionally, blankets were woven in two panels with a center seam and finished with tiny overcast stitches. They were hemmed with a 1/4 inch, narrow roll. The weaves were either tabby, plain, a diagonal twill weave or a bird's-eye twill weave comprised of concentric diamonds. They may bear the owner's initials cross- stitched in a corner.

Early on the natural cream color seems to have been the most common. Later in the 18th century they were used under a checkered or embroidered top blanket. Over time the cream color mellows and develops an almost tactile patina. Cream colored blankets are my favorite. They are the basic component of any blanket collection.

Natural dyes were used in the 18th century. They included indigo for blue, madder for reddish brown to red and wood shavings from butternut bark for tans and browns and shavings from maple bark for cinnamon brown. These early colors were used to dye wool which was woven in a plain or a twill weave. Blankets were woven with a checked, cross-line, windowpane or plaid design. The cross-line and windowpane designs were woven in a plain weave that used less dyed wool and had a larger area of white. They were usually woven of all wool but occasionally had cotton warps and cross-lines. The early plaids often had a hem-stitched fringe at one end and a regular hem on the other end. Blankets with a deep indigo, a warm nut brown or a mellow mustard check, window-pane or plaid add dimension and interest to your blanket collection.

Blankets are so versatile. Whether you stack them on a blanket chest or in a cupboard, fold them over a rack, hang them from a peg or better yet use them to dress a rope bed, collecting blankets is fun and affordable. Blankets are functional, decorative and a piece of history you are preserving for future generations.

Welcome to The Powdered Wigs!

Here is where I'll share my love of history, knowledge and passion for antiques with you and hopefully you can share with me your collections, historic interest and we'll both continue to learn about a way of life from long ago.

As the owner of Donna Finegan Antiques, my speciality is predominantly early American clothing and accessories from the late 18th century to the mid 19th century. In addition I offer a wide selection of painted smalls, homespun textiles, sewing items and early dolls. I also carry good, country painted furniture.

Twenty five years ago starting out strictly as a collector, my collection soon became a way of life. Acquiring a house full of wonderful furniture and smalls, I felt something was missing. I decided I was lacking the personal element such as clothing, textiles and accessories. Homespun, dresses and petticoats augment a collection of furniture. They add depth, texture, color and familiarity to a room. Hence I made the leap to textiles and clothing.

I consider myself a custodian of these pieces. You never really own them: you are just a caretaker, preserving them for the next generation. My passion and love for furniture, smalls, textiles and clothing, coupled with the philosophy of preserving them for the next generation, led me to open my business fifteen years ago. I exhibit at a number of quality antique shows and I also work out of my home by appointment only.

Thanks for taking the time to stop for a moment and read and learn and share with me. I'm so looking forward to your comments, please always include what you collect. So here we go!