Q: I inherited four Gothic Revival side chairs attributed to J. and J.W. Meeks. I was told they once belonged to the White House and were used in Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet Room. How can I establish authenticity?
A: It is probably impossible for you to determine that the chairs were used in the White House during Lincoln’s administration (1861-65). It is known that during the Polk administration (1845-49), as many as 24 black walnut Gothic Revival chairs made by J. and J.W. Meeks of New York City were purchased for the White House. Lincoln used some of the chairs in his Cabinet Room (now the “Lincoln Bedroom”). The chairs are shown in the painting, “First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln.” Four chairs are still in the White House collection. First see if your chairs match those shown in the painting, on display at the U.S. Capitol (the image can be found online). If the chairs match, at least you can say your chairs are identical to those in the White House and were made by Meeks. But without any additional history, it’s unlikely you can ever prove the chairs were once owned by the White House.