For two centuries, American commercial storefronts often required various shading devices for natural climate control, protection of show window displays and shoppers, and enhancement of building appearance. By far the most popular of these were fabric awnings, but metal was also an available option although not widely acknowledged in contemporary scholarly documentation. Both Mesker companies offered various metal canopy and awnings designs with both decorative and simpler utilitarian brackets (for self-supporting awnings) and support posts. The roofing or awning material was corrugated galvanized iron or steel, which upon painting provided a durable solution. George L. Mesker & Co. offered to provide canvas or duck covering in lieu of iron, if desired, or to provide the structural frame only, without covering of any kind. These turn-of-the-20th-century metal awnings, though rare, can still be found among their more prevalent fabric counterparts. When considering an appropriate replacement or compatible new awning, fabric is rightfully the go-to solution. But as these Mesker awnings prove, metal can also be a historically appropriate option and not just for industrial buildings or for mid-20th century storefronts whose flat aluminum canopies are so indicative of that era (and which Meskers also made).
In the 1920s, while Mesker Brothers Iron Works devoted itself nearly exclusively towards steel window manufacture, George L. Mesker & Co. continued to offer complete storefronts and related components. As the storefront designs and materials changed—from wood and iron to steel, copper, marble, and Vitrolite—so did the awnings. Mesker designed and offered suspended ornamental canopies, which they called marquises (same as marquees). Mesker marquises were painted steel with optional glass globes and drops, and zinc crestings. A marquise could have been furnished with a heavy skylight frame (i.e., a glass roof) so it did not darken the display windows, but metal roofs and ceilings were more common. For less money, a metal-clad wooden canopy with a composition roof instead of metal, was also available. As to their popularity? In the 1928 catalog the company claimed that the “Mesker Marquise are performing service in every State in the Union […].” In the 1930s, the Mesker canopies took on a more streamlined and modernistic appearance and incorporated white metals instead of painted steel, and neon. In the 1950s, these modern canopies were employed in the company’s Multi-Park, “a sectional, all-steel parking shelter of modernistic design.”