Attributed to Joseph Meeks & Sons
New York, circa 1825
Pine, rosewood and rosewood veneer, marble, composition, ormolu, gilt.
This imposing pier table is virtually identical to other furniture attributed to the shop of Joseph Meeks (1771-1868) of New York, including two examples in the Metropolitan Museum. Meeks and his son John operated a furniture manufactory and showroom in New York and shipped furniture to their regional showrooms and warehouses in Savannah and New Orleans, taking advantage of the growing urbanization and sophistication of the southern furniture market.
Savannah was a haven for warehousemen never having developed a local cabinetmaking trade. In the mid to late 18th century, most residents relied on imported goods to furnish their households rather than local craftsmen. This trend continued after the Revolutionary War, and between 1800 and 1820 more than 30 cabinet warehousing concerns advertised in Savannah newspapers. Joseph Meeks was one of the earliest, advertising as early as 1798. His warehouse was in operation in Savannah until about 1820.
This example was purchased in Charleston, South Carolina decades ago. This active port city also supported an imported furniture trade. As Charleston’s reign as an early cabinetmaking center waned after the Revolution, the remaining cabinetmakers imported furniture directly from makers in New York and Philadelphia. They sold the fashionable furniture from their showrooms providing competition for the warehouses run by the manufacturers themselves. Charlestonians also commissioned New York cabinetmakers for specific pieces either directly or through their factors in New York.
This table represents the pinnacle of classical taste in America. Furniture of this level of sophistication and ornamentation reflected the increasing desire for fashionable taste and opulence in the homes of wealthy Americans. The proportions of this pier table satisfy the larger room scale and their increasing specialization in contemporary residences, north and south.
McInness and Leath, “Beautiful Specimens, Elegant Patterns: New York Furniture for the Charleston Market, 1810-1840. Milwaukee: Chipstone Foundation published in American Furniture 1996, pp. 137-174.
Forsyth Alexander “Cabinet Warehousing in Southern Atlantic Ports, 1783-1820” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, November 1989. (Winston-Salem: MESDA) pp.1-42