Augustin Lynch (1801-1870) was one of Alabama's most colorful and successful cabinetmakers in the antebellum period. His production of furniture was prolific, as evidenced by the many advertisements in Tuscaloosa newspapers and from his estate inventory. As a result either of loss of his paper label or lack of identifying marks, only four of his pieces are known to exist today, all descending among family members.
Lynch was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 1801, to James and B. Finette Lynch. By 1821, after several moves around Tennessee, the family had settled in Alabama. At that time, Augustin was contracting for carpenter's work with his father. He continued to develop his skill as a carpenter/cabinetmaker at the family's turning and screw "manufactory," as the business was called.
As his business successes grew, he began to buy land (the first lot from his father in 1829), and he continued acquiring land into the late 1850s. By May 1831, Lynch was seeking business at the newly founded University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa by offering student furniture, mattresses, pillows, tables, bedsteads, and desks. As of 1832, Lynch aimed to expand his business, hoping to hire two or three journeymen cabinet makers, but between 1835 and 1837, he advertised that he had employed several workmen from the "best Northern Cabinet Manufactories." He bought out his father's turning business in 1836 and moved it to his own shop. Lynch also imported furniture into Alabama. Between 1832 and 1840, the Alabama Senate approved numerous payments to Lynch for repairs and furniture, including desks, cases, drawers, and tables for the Alabama Senate, the hall of the House of Representative Hall, and the main courtroom for the Alabama Supreme Court, which was located in Tuscaloosa from 1826 to 1846. In 1854, Lynch was listed in the Southern Business Directory, similar to contemporary city directories with listings of businesses and advertisements. Lynch's business survived the Civil War by adapting to wartime needs; he manufactured tents, drums, and coffins for the Confederacy. His advertisements continued to appear in the Tuscaloosa Independent Monitor yearly until 1870, the year he died.
Lynch filed his will at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse on September 1, 1869, leaving most of his estate to his wife, Isabella Wampole Lynch (1819-1900), and their seven children. He appointed his son-in-law Joshua Hausman as guardian of his minor children, Augustina and Sarah, and directed that a portion of his property be rented to provide funds for their support and education. He died in 1870 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Tuscaloosa.
The inventory of Lynch's estate provides historians a rare description of an Alabama furniture business. The detail of the document may indicate that the recorder either knew furniture styles and woods or was taking dictation from someone who did. Because of the quantity of furniture listed and the absence of textiles, silver, or china, the inventory likely represents Lynch's business, not his home. The furniture descriptions include mahogany and walnut étagères, frames, looking-glass plates, cottage chairs, a walnut French bedstead, and a large mahogany Elizabethan bedstead. Although Lynch never advertised as an undertaker, like other cabinetmakers, he must have supplied coffins, as a "lot of assorted coffin moulding" is also recorded. After Augustin's death, his son William Penn Lynch advertised that he was carrying on his father's business and later operated it under his own name.
Several pieces of furniture manufactured by Lynch are known to still exist in Alabama. One of the more interesting examples is a large, yellow pine combination secretary and bookcase that was donated to the Old Tavern Museum in Tuscaloosa by Lynch's great-granddaughter. The fall-front secretary, a writing desk with a board that folds down from the front for writing, has two dove-tailed drawers and turned legs. The piece is constructed with square nails, and the grain of the pine is matched. The bookcase has two large doors with 12 glass panes each. On the bottom of one drawer remains one of Lynch's paper labels. Other pieces include a small spool-legged table with the initials A. L. in script on the drawer interior in ink, a walnut sewing table, a walnut loveseat, and a carved marble top table and a series of simple side chairs.
Adams, E. Bryding. Made in Alabama: A State Legacy. Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Museum of Art, 1995.
E. Bryding Adams
Alabama School of Fine Arts Foundation
Published January 19, 2010
Last updated April 6, 2011