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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Corning Glass

Author: Harold Van Dusen

( Article orginally published September 1963 )

CORNING, N.Y.-An era that began in the 1870s has ended here with the closing, as a manufacturing company, of T. G. Hawkes & Co., glass engraving and cutting. It was the last of the fine glass cutters in this part of the nation. Hereafter its retail store will handle English cut glass.

Corning at one time had more than a score of glass cutting shops, and employed more than 1000 glass cutters. Many had learned their trades in England and Scotland. Frank Wilson, for instance, who came here in 1879, from England, was one of the first Hawkes glass cutters and engravers, and one of the best in the country. It was said that he could take a piece of "rough" glass, draw his own pattern with red lead, rough it, smooth it and polish it, something that most men could not do. Later Wilson started his own plant in Corning with two of his sons, and operated for many years.

Copperwheel engraving in America has had several periods. There were 34 shops in America by 1840, but by 1865 there were but eight houses listed which made fine cut glass. The War Between the States had cut down on luxuries.

J. Hoare was then operating a glass cutting plant in Brooklyn. The panic of 1873 was disastrous to the industry, and Mr. Hoare survived as an independent cutting house, thanks to his close association with Amory Houghton Sr., who had launched the Corning Glass Works here. Then William Gillender of Franklin Glass Works set up a complete production exhibit that became the spark that ignited once again the` furnaces of America's cut glass industry. Mr. Houghton provided a constant supply of excellent glass "blanks" here [in Corning] and the industry began to grow. Mr. Hoare brought his" shop to Corning and rented space for it in Mr. Houghton's glass works.

Thomas G. Hawkes opened his factory on Market Street in Corning in 1880. About 1905 this company made rich pillar and rock crystal goblets, which if available now would retail for about $1,350 a dozen. A complete service of cut glass delivered in 1929, handmade, pillared and of rock crystal design, retailed at $29,000. If it were possible to duplicate this service today, it would cost $100,000, according to A. Bradley Lindsley, last general manager of the firm.

Special services were made during the early 1900s for such people as W. H. Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor, Joseph Chamberlain, Chauncey M. DePew, Joseph Leiter, J. Ogden Armour, Charles M. Schwab, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Other glass cutting companies in Corning during the heyday of the industry sold their output to such wellknown retail outlets as Tiffany's in New York and Marshall Field in Chicago. But that era has ended. Cut glass is still popular in some areas and with some people, but the industry is no longer able to buy an adequate supply of "blanks." The glass industry is busy with other types of wares in this new atomic era.

The goblet pictured, in the Russian pattern with the U. S. Coat of Arms, is from a table service of 50 dozen pieces cut by T. G. Hawkes in 1886 for the White House during Cleveland's first administration, soon after his marriage to Miss Frances Folsom. The Russian pattern, designed by Philip McDonald, a cutter for Hawks, was patented on June 20, 1882, and assigned to the Hawkes company. Replacements and additions were made to the service by President Harrison, and by President Cleveland during his second administration. Its use was continued by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge. In 1938, a less expensive pattern was substituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (See "White House Glassware;" SW JulyAugust '62.)

For a trademark Hawkes used a single H, or two hawks in a shamrock mark. All his pieces after 1895 were presumably marked. (See "Cut Glass, 1880-1915," SW September 1961.)

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