This sofa—with its gondola shape, serpentine base, and stylized scroll and cornucopia carving—was the height of fashion in the late 1830s. It is signed with a printed maker’s label under the seat: “[J. & J. W. M]EEKS / [CABINETMAKE]RS, / [No. 14 VESEY STREET, sec]ond door below the / [ASTOR HOU]SE, / [NEW Y]ORK. / [AND 23] CHARTRES-STREET, / NEW-ORLEANS.” Makers’ labels aren’t often found on antique furniture, in which case curators must rely on stylistic similarities to put pieces into context, so a signed work like this one is especially important. Labels can reveal a great deal about a piece’s origins and help attribute unlabeled pieces to particular makers. This label reveals that the sofa was produced in New York and sold in New Orleans sometime between 1836 and 1839. Although this is the only known piece of seating furniture with the Meeks’s Chartres Street label, this sofa is representative of the type of fashionable northern furniture that filled elite homes in New Orleans and the Gulf South.
The Meeks cabinetmaking firm was established at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Joseph Meeks in New York City and began operating a warehouse on Chartres Street in New Orleans by 1820. Joseph Meeks & Sons established its place at the top of the American furniture market when, in 1833, it published a color lithograph broadside advertising its fashionable furniture—one of the first illustrated style guides of American furniture. In 1836 the company changed its name to J. & J. W. Meeks and moved to a new site near the Astor House in New York City. It closed its New Orleans warehouse in 1839, but J. & J. W. Meeks continued to market its fashionable furniture through retailers in the city and remained a popular designer throughout the antebellum era.
Citation 1: 
1836–39; mahogany, poplar, pine, chestnut, brass, velvet
Citation 2: 
by J. & J. W. Meeks (New York), retailed in New Orleans
Accession #: 
acquisition made possible by the 2014 Laussat Society, 2014.0381
Lydia Blackmore, Decorative Arts Curator