Meeks Furniture Makers

A rosewood Rococo Revival cellarette attributed to John and Joseph W. Meeks, New York, circa 1850 to 1860, the case with pierced fretwork panels

p4A ItemID E8872781
A rosewood Rococo Revival wardrobe or armoire attributed to John and Joseph W. Meeks, New York, circa 1850 to 1860

p4A ItemID E8872610
A rosewood portfolio cabinet on trestle base, attributed to J. & J.W. Meeks, New York, circa 1845, the case with pierced gallery and fretwork side doors, the front with needlework panel depicting a scene from Romeo and Juliet

p4A ItemID E8871506
A mahogany Classical side table attributed to J. & J.W. Meeks, New York, early 19th century, having a serpentine marble top and conforming stretcher insert

p4A ItemID E8871185

Meeks Furniture Makers

The Meeks family firm had been in business at least forty years in New York by the time that Belter and Hunzinger arrived on the island of Manhattan. This furniture making company went through four distinct phases, always successful and always in family hands. Joseph Meeks (born in New York or New Jersey) ran the company from 1797 to 1828 under his own name, his two sons joined him from 1829 to 1835 (Joseph Meeks & Sons), the sons took over the business from 1836 to 1859 (J. and J.W. Meeks, for John and Joseph W.), and then from 1859 to 1869 it was run by Joseph Meeks’s grandson and then closed.

It is worth noting that this firm, unlike Belter’s or Hunzinger’s, earned its fame simply by providing well-built, moderately priced furniture. The Meeks firm did not pride itself on innovation, patents or setting the style of the day. Rather, they gave the public what it wanted when it wanted it. This strategy kept them in business through many stylistic changes for seventy-two years.

The third period, when Joseph W. and John ran the firm, is when it expanded most rapidly with clients from north to south. The Meeks firm was a clear competitor to Belter’s, and their products were often, but not exclusively, in the Rococo Revival style. Although it is difficult to generalize, Meeks furniture typically has fewer layers of lamination than Belter produced pieces, and the silhouette can be more pointed, rather than rounded. Many scholars believe that many pieces attributed to Belter are in fact Meeks. Because the Meeks name is somewhat less known than Belter in the general market, a labeled Meeks piece will almost certainly bring less than a labeled Belter, although quality may be comparable.

Nineteenth Century New York was then – as it is now – the style capital of the United States, and there was room for all comers. The German immigrants, bringing their innovative production techniques and an eye for European style, were well represented by John Belter and George Hunzinger. The Meeks firm was a worthy, home grown competitor to these innovators.

Reference note by Contributing Editor Jan W. Hack

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