- Lisa Swickard
A Century Later, New Hawkes Takes Flight
For the past 50-plus years, Tiffin has harbored a secret. That speaks volumes considering that in a city of roughly 20,000 people -- where most residents are connected through ancestry or by multigenerational friendships -- secrets of any kind are virtually nonexistent.
This secret (perhaps better referred to as a slice of dormant history) centers around the final destination of a trademark that for nearly a century graced every piece of brilliant cut crystal created by the renown T.G. Hawkes & Co. of Corning, N.Y. Thomas Gibbons Hawkes opened his cutting
establishment in 1880. At that time Europe was considered the upper echelon of the cut glass industry and many of the overseas artists felt justified in looking down their collective noses at the lowly Americans.
T.G. Hawkes readjusted the Europeans’ attitudes in 1889 when his company shipped 612 pieces of its finest brilliant cut crystal to France to compete in that year’s Paris Exposition. The competition was fierce, with every piece of crystal scrutinized to the fullest. And when T.G. Hawkes was awarded the coveted Grand Prize, the honor garnered the American underdog instant fame across the globe.
For the remainder of the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, Hawkes emerged as a household name and Thomas was the crowned prince of the industry. He possessed a keen business sense that he used to ultimately earn his crystal a place at the dining tables of a string of U. S. Presidents. Many of those pieces also were eagerly sought by dignitaries across the sea.
So what does the world famous company that was the darling of Corning, New York, have to do with Tiffin, Ohio?
For 82 years T.G. Hawkes & Co. maintained its status as a forerunner in the glass industry. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, a Hawkes representative discovered the high quality blank glassware being manufactured at the Tiffin Glass Co. The Tiffin establishment employed a staff of expert glass blowers who provided Hawkes a consistent supply of elegant lead crystal pieces upon which the master cutters could carve.
It seemed to be the perfect match.
The relationship became even more entwined in 1964 when, two years after Hawkes closed, the Tiffin Glass Co. purchased the T.G. Hawkes trademark. Its intentions were honorable. The Tiffin company planned to open a Hawkes line of fine cut crystal.
But the timing simply wasn’t right. By the 1960s, the era of elegant brilliant cut glass had waned. For the next half-century, the Hawkes trademark went into hibernation in the Midwest. Glass enthusiasts undoubtedly assumed the Hawkes era was gone forever.
Then in 2016, Master Brilliant Crystal Cutter and Designer Aidan J. Scully joined forces with Cindy and Andrew Kalnow to procure the Hawkes trademark and reestablish the name for a new collection of original contemporary and Celtic designs. Today, above the striped awning outside a small storefront at 207 S. Washington St. in historic downtown Tiffin hangs a sign sporting those familiar trademark birds surrounded by the verbiage: “HAWKES CRYSTAL -- HANDCUT IN TIFFIN, OHIO, USA.”
At first glance, it seems as if T.G. Hawkes managed to orchestrate his own resurrection. But amid the few pieces of vintage Hawkes crystal on display is an entire showroom depicting the talent of a new generation of glass artist. Scully is one of only three master cutters in the United States who is trained in the deep, brilliant style of cutting. And like his predecessor, each piece of present-day Hawkes Crystal is still designed, cut and polished the same way Thomas Hawkes did when T.G. Hawkes & Co. took Paris by storm in 1889.
Tiffin is extremely fortunate to have Scully to carry on its glass heritage. An artist of this caliber is rarely found in a town the size of Tiffin. But this is a glass city, and even though Scully grew up in County Cork, Ireland, he now considers Tiffin his home. Working beside him is his apprentice, Aaron Gooding of this city, who has been learning the cutting trade for the past two years. Together, they are keeping beauty and elegance alive through the fine art of glass.
We invite you to visit our showroom from 10-5 Monday-Friday and Saturday from 10-1, or peruse our website and online store at hawkescrystal.com.