Archival collections are like families. The documents that comprise archival collections are related to one another – sometimes closely, sometimes distantly, and sometimes in confusing ways. Archivists routinely draw boundaries around archival collections according to provenance, or the original source of the records. Just as a family tree communicates useful context about people, an archival collection guide conveys information about documents based on provenance.
When archivists process records to prepare them for researcher use, we first ensure the records are assembled according to provenance. If the records creator directly transfers the records to the archives, this is very straightforward. But if the creator disperses the records, and materials arrive in dribs and drabs, the work takes on the complexity of a convoluted genealogy.
So it was with The Rakow Research Library’s acquisition of the T.G. Hawkes & Co. Records. The first set of records arrived in 1962, purchased after the closure of T. G. Hawkes & Co. It contained a mix of records from T.G. Hawkes & Co., J. Hoare & Co., and H.P. Sinclaire & Co., the three most important glass cutting firms in Corning. As collaborators and competitors, these firms shared a tangled history from the 1880s through World War I. When J. Hoare & Co. and H. P. Sinclaire & Co. folded in the 1920s, only T. G. Hawkes & Co. remained to carry the Corning cut glass trade forward. Facing a steady decline in the demand for cut glass, the company hobbled towards a seemingly inevitable demise.
Between 1962 and 1977, the Hawkes family haphazardly sold and distributed additional sets of records to the Rakow, glass collectors, and glass researchers. Over the next forty years, much of this material trickled into the Rakow’s collection. Library staff tracked each of these acquisitions and provided researchers access to them. However, it was nearly impossible to understand the acquisitions as a family of records. The staff could not present a clear summary of the entirety of the T. G. Hawkes & Co. Records. We also could not easily locate materials previously cited in books and articles for further study.
In 2019 the Rakow received a Documentary Heritage Program Grant from the New York State Archives to address this longstanding problem. Grant funds enabled us to reunite dozens of acquisitions according to their common provenance. Over the past 18 months (including an unanticipated six-month pause due to COVID-19), we processed them and wrote an archival collection guide that presents the records to researchers in their entirety.
The new collection guide to the T. G. Hawkes & Co. Records provides summary information about the size (127.7 linear feet) and date span (1880-1977) of the collection. It organizes the records into logical categories, dividing and subdividing them by record type and creator. And most important, specific records may now be easily located and retrieved for researchers’ use.
Whether you are a cut glass collector, a Corning history buff, or a genealogist researching ancestors in the cut glass trade, we welcome you to visit the Rakow and get to know the reunited T. G. Hawkes & Co. Records.