American glass curator, Kelly Conway, and I were struck by the overall beauty and magnificent cutting of this T.G. Hawkes Plate in “Willow” Pattern (2007.4.51). Kelly, who recently wrote on table settings for Thanksgiving, remarked that this cut plate had the look of a beautifully executed lattice-topped pie crust. I couldn’t agree more! The pattern features intricately cut stars interspersed between smooth broad bands, which appear to weave over and under each other, just like a pie crust. Also referred to as “Latticed Rosettes and Ribbons,” this pattern was patented by T.G. Hawkes & Co. on February 7, 1911.
As much as a fresh-from-the oven, lattice-topped pie has a traditional place among Thanksgiving fare, T.G. Hawkes & Co. holds an integral place in the rich tradition of cut glass in Corning, N.Y. Corning was a center of cut glass production from 1868 to 1962, starting with the relocation of Brooklyn Flint Glass Works from New York City to Corning, NY. Once moved, the company was renamed Corning Glass Works. Corning was chosen as the new site for the company, as its landscape and rivers could support both glass production and transportation of finished goods. Furthermore, the city also offered lower labor costs, a major motivator in the company’s decision to relocate.
Thomas Gibbons Hawkes (1846-1913), an Irishman whose family was involved with the Irish glass industry, immigrated to the United States in 1863. At the age of 17, Hawkes obtained a job as a draftsman for Hoare & Daily, a glass cutting firm in Brooklyn, NY. By 1870, he had moved to Corning, NY to supervise a Hoare & Daily branch located within the Corning Glass Works Building.
Hawkes amicably left Hoare & Daily in 1880 to open Thomas G. Hawkes & Co., the second cutting firm established Corning. For a town whose glass industry was beginning to expand, the creation of a second cutting firm was a significant development. It was the winning of a Grand Prize (63.7.33) for cut glass at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle though, that solidified T.G. Hawkes & Co.’s significance within the cut glass industry. This event brought a stimulus to the American glass industry and to Corning, who quickly adopted the nickname the “Crystal City.”
Over time, T.G. Hawkes & Co. became the largest cutting shop in the area. Their reputation for quality glass production led to an important list of clientele, including the White House and the American Embassy in St. Petersburg. At its peak around 1900, T.G. Hawkes & Co. employed more than 400 workers. Their success enabled them to open a second branch in 1901, and a third in 1902.
When Hawkes died in 1913, his son Samuel took over the business. Unfortunately, the decrease in demand for luxury cut ware led to the closing of T.G. Hawkes & Co. in 1962. This marked the end of an era and the end of Corning’s participation in the cut glass industry. T.G. Hawkes & Co.’s eighty-two years in business and high quality production remain significant to the history and tradition of cut glass in the Crystal City.
For more information, see: Spillman, The American Cut Glass Industry: T.G. Hawkes and His competitors (1996).