Appraisal Video: (4:26)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: This was in the will from my great-grandmother, left to my grandfather. It was passed down all through the family, five generations that I know of. Maybe... well, six generations sat on it. My grandson has really, with his stuffed animals, beaten it up pretty good. But we all had the pleasure of enjoying this in our home.
APPRAISER: So you live with this every day?
GUEST: Every day. It's in the living room. It was very treasured by my grandmother.
APPRAISER: Was it her kind of special parlor furniture?
GUEST: Oh, this is it. She had this and a chair, and she used to lay there and watch television, and she always wanted me to have it. And when she got very ill, she says, "Please, I worry about it. Take it out of the house and take it home."
APPRAISER: Now, how have you cared for it in the time that you've owned it?
GUEST: I got it reupholstered. But I told them when they reupholstered it not to put anything on the wood. I was afraid they would put something on it that would hurt it.
APPRAISER: Well, I got to tell you, every furniture conservator in America loves you right now.
GUEST: Well, I did read one time, it said, "Wood's dead. Do not feed it."
APPRAISER: Absolutely right. Do you know anything about where it was made or who made it?
GUEST: No, I'm figuring maybe... They lived up in Rutherford, in Bergen County.
APPRAISER: Right, so just across the river from New York.
GUEST: I'm figuring it's around 1850 or 1860.
APPRAISER: Any sense of who might have made it?
GUEST: They say it would be a Belter, could be Meeks... I really don't know.
APPRAISER: Well, Belter and Meeks were kind of like number one and number two of the furniture trade in New York, and this is a piece by J. and J.W. Meeks.
APPRAISER: And it's called the Stanton Hall pattern.
GUEST: Oh, all right.
APPRAISER: Which is after a set of furniture that came out of Stanton Hall in Natchez, Mississippi. Now, what's really fascinating about this with Meeks is that they were based in New York City, but as early as the 1820s, they were shipping stuff into New Orleans. And then it would get transshipped up the Mississippi.
APPRAISER: So they were one of the original, like, national marketing guys. The firm started in the late 18th century, about 1797, and they went until about 1868. But there was always somebody else in the limelight. In the 1820s and '30s, it was Duncan Phyfe. And then in the 1840s through the end of it, they were competing with John Henry Belter. Meeks was number two, "we try harder."
APPRAISER: And when you look at this piece, it has all the features that are characteristic of the top New York pieces. This is a curved lamination. I often say, people think plywood's such a bad thing, but plywood gives you great strength. And what they would do is they'd laminate this up so one grain would go this way, then this way, then back again. And this allowed them to take the curve. But what's really special about the work they did is not only did they laminate it, then they'd pierce it and then they'd come back and carve it. Now, rosewood is a beautiful wood, but more importantly, it's incredibly hard to glue because it's oily. And it's also very hard to carve because it's a very dense wood. So they took a great wood, really hard to work, and took the hardest way to handle it to make this. So these are really incredibly wonderful pieces in terms of their artistry and cabinetwork. If somebody doesn't like your taste in fabrics, when it goes to market, they're not going to buy it or they're going to pay substantially less because they have to redo it. When this was originally made, it probably had what we call a tufted back. A tufted back is like little pillows with a button pulled through. And that was very common with these. It's not a critical thing, but it is a valuable thing if the upholsterer does it. For insurance purposes, we have to take into account that if you replaced it, you're going to replace it with new upholstery and it's all going to be cleaned up.
APPRAISER: So, in this case, insurance value reflects the retail market at top price. And when I look at this, I think $15,000 is a very fair replacement value.
APPRAISER: Well, if you want to sit down on it, go ahead.
GUEST: Yes, I do. You can join me.
APPRAISER: I'll join you there.