Inside the Collection: Kenneth Lynch Tool Collection
By Lindsey Roark, Arts Intern in Collections
Kenneth Lynch & Sons, founded by Kenneth Lynch (1906-1989), is an ornamental metal company that produces urban seating, estate elements, and Florentine classics. During the first ten years of operations, Kennneth Lynch & Sons was located in New York, and in 1938, Lynch moved his company to Wilton, Connecticut. The company later moved again in 2007 to Oxford, Connecticut, where they are still located today. Now owned by Maria Lynch Dumoulin, Kenneth Lynch's granddaughter, Kenneth Lynch & Sons just celebrated their 90th anniversary in 2017.
While the Lynch family has been in the metalworking field for over 300 years, the actual company was founded by Kenneth Lynch in 1927. Lynch was born in 1906 in New Haven, Connecticut, and his first experience with metalsmithing was when he became a farrier shortly after joining the U.S. Cavalry in his early teens. During this time, a colonel noticed Lynch’s talent and sent him to Germany to train in the fine-metal crafting and armor trade. When Lynch returned to the U.S. in the early 1920s, his work was highly sought after, and he began doing armor, ornamental metal commissions, and repair jobs.
One of Lynch’s most well known repairs was the work he did on the Statue of Liberty. At the time, the lieutenant in charge of Miss Liberty contracted Lynch in the late 1920s to come make repairs to the colossal statue. He chose Lynch to do the work based on his experience with repoussé. For those of you who don’t know, the Statue of Liberty is the largest known sculpture created in repoussé, a technique where metal is hammered into relief from the reverse side (1). Lynch and his team repaired and replaced the loose, worn copper plates on Miss Liberty’s facade.
Another well-known job Lynch did was for the New York World Fair in 1937, where he produced 800 benches. In fact, Kenneth Lynch and Sons have helped produce many benches for New York’s parks, and most of them are recognizable from popular media.
Once Lynch moved his operations down to Wilton, CT, his business and family expanded. His business covered 30 acres of land with shops and residences for his assistants, apprentices, and his family. Lynch had four kids, Patricia, Winifred, Micheal and Timothy. Micheal and Timothy both trained in the metalsmith trade while working under Lynch and other masters. Timothy started working full-time at the company in 1976 and eventually took over the business in 1988.
“I admire the older men and their tools. Tools are such a personal thing, you can almost tell a man's personality by his tools." -- Kenneth Lynch (2)
Over the years, Lynch became not just a metalworker but a collector who was fascinated with smithing tools and other ornamental items. In an article printed in 1984, Lynch said he started collecting tools in 1917 when a blacksmith quit his job and left behind his tools. Lynch chased after the man to give him his tools, but the man told Lynch to keep them (3). He became obsessed with tools after that incident because of the stories they hold. Lynch collected pieces throughout his travels often founding pieces in abandoned shops and flea markets. He would also buy pieces from struggling smiths or companies. In 1985, Lynch’s tool collection was considered the largest in the world, having accumulating roughly 500 tons of tools, a large percentage of which were 19th century French metalsmithing tools. However, during the late 1980s, Lynch began auctioning and donating pieces he had collected.
The story of how part of Lynch’s collection came to the Metal Museum is a long one. Throughout the 1980s, Lynch and James “Wally” Wallace, the Metal Museum’s Founding Director, corresponded over the course of 10 years and built a strong relationship with each other. Based on the information provided in their letters, it appears that Lynch donated tools to the Museum twice before he passed; he sent one shipment in July of 1987 and then a barrel filled with more tools in April of 1989. In July 1989, a few months after Lynch had passed away, Kenneth Lynch and Sons gifted us another shipment from his collection. These shipments were split up among our departments: Wally selected an assortment of tools for our Permanent Collection and then gave some to our Metals Studio and Education Department.
The Kenneth Lynch Tool Collection consists of different kinds of agriculture tools such as a pointed hoe, hay fork, and cutting mattock. Additionally, it contains metalsmithing tools like a hatchet stake, a chisel, and a few hammer heads. An interesting piece in the collection is the recingle, which is a french tool used primarily by goldsmiths to reach a part of their vessels other tools can’t reach. The handle would be stuck inside a solid foundation to hold the tool in place, and one end would be inserted into the vessel while the other end would be struck by a hammer that sent vibrations through the tool causing it to strike the vessel. While the term doesn’t have a direct translation, the tool is similar to snarling iron in English (4).
By researching the maker’s marks on some of the pieces, we have been able to discover some of the artists and companies the pieces originate from, such as Leborgne and Experton-Revollier. Leborgne is a French tool company that is still in existence today. It was officially founded by Emile Leborgne in 1829, but the Leborgne family has a long history of tool-making in France that dates back to the 1600s. While Experton-Revollier is a private company established in 1810 and located in Reaumont, France, that processes steel and manufacture tools. There are a few pieces marked with "ACIER FONDU" which translates to molten steel and was often used during the 19th century for forged tools. Multiple pieces have a “RIVAL” touchmark and despite thorough research we aren’t able to directly link them to one artist or company. If you have more information about Kenneth Lynch, please email us at email@example.com. If you want to commission your own work by Kenneth Lynch & Sons, be sure to check out their website: http://klynchandsons.com/.
To view the entire collections, check out the photos below:
Lindsey Roark is the Summer 2019 Arts Intern in Collections at the Metal Museum. Roark is a junior at the University of Memphis, studying Business and Studio Arts. The Arts Intern program, which offers paid internships in the arts to undergraduate students in financial need, is one of many arts programs run by the Studio Institute.
Kenneth Lynch Collections: Architectural, Decorative & Ornamental Objects. Vol. 2, Guernseys, 1985.
Kenneth Lynch Collections: Smithing Tools and Items Related to the Art of Smithing. Vol. 2, Guernsey's, 1985.