Ephemera—memorabilia meant to last for only the moment—why do we find it so fascinating? How can these papers show us so much about the people who once kept them, especially considering the blip on the radar of Time they represent?
The draw to learn just who the unidentified faces in a discarded photograph might be is likely what first enticed me to purchase the family photo album I discovered in a local antique shop. And actually, we've done quite well in figuring out who a few of the players were. We've certainly pegged Penrose Hawkes of County Cork, Ireland, thanks to his mother's penchant for cute white show dogs. And really, if it weren't for the notes inscribed on each page of the album, it would have been impossible to learn any of the Hawkes family's story.
One question remains, though: just who was it who added those white-ink notes on the faded black pages of the album? The album's frontispiece clued us in to the names Harry and Alice, but no surnames. We can presume that somehow, Harry and Alice are related to the other Hawkes family members, but we haven't yet picked up any further details to lead us to an answer.
However, we are certainly sensitized to any mention of those two names. So, in discovering the obituary of Penrose's recent bride, the fact that, besides mention of her sole survivors—her husband and her mother—the lone other name included happening to be someone named Alice certainly caught my attention.
To learn more about just who this Alice Hawkes Robinson was, we need to turn to yet another Hawkes family obituary from 1944—this time, six months prior to Marion's passing.
The obituary I'm referring to filled an entire column on the tenth page of the Corning Leader on March 20, 1944. Under a photograph labeled "Art Glass Vice President" was the article on the sudden passing of a man named Townsend de Moleyns Hawkes.
It's a pity that, though the article mentioned the names of this Mr. Hawkes' parents, his father's given names happened to be the same as some other members of the extended Hawkes family. To complicate matters, the newspaper seems to have a penchant for lumping all cousins into the same class, labeling as "cousin" both the father and the son of another branch of the Hawkes family. By using that term so indiscriminately, it complicates our quest to determine just how the Alice we are seeking is actually related to our target, Penrose Hawkes.
Here's a brief synopsis of the obituary, though the full article can be viewed here for free, thanks to the site known as Old Fulton NY Post Cards. Apparently, Townsend de Moleyns Hawkes was born October 11, 1874, at Kilcrea House in County Cork. He left Ireland to emigrate to New York in 1891 where, as the newspaper put it, "he quickly became associated with his cousin, Thomas G. Hawkes."
Almost in the same breath, the Leader went on to say, "He was also a cousin of Samuel Hawkes...the present president of the company." Samuel, as we've already noted, happened to be son, not brother, of the founder, Thomas G. Hawkes—so either Townsend and Thomas were cousins, or Townsend and Samuel. Especially considering this family tended to repeat use of the same given names from generation to generation, being able to peg their most recent common ancestor to one generation or the other would be quite helpful, as we'll soon see.
There were fine words to be said about Townsend Hawkes, of course. He was "an intensely friendly and democratic person" who held key positions in many civic-minded organizations. Though as important a person as vice president and secretary of a company manufacturing "some of the world's most beautiful art glass," he had just been out for a short walk with his dog when, resting afterward in a chair at home, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Mr. Hawkes, at sixty nine, left behind a wife, two daughters and three grandchildren, in addition to his two brothers and two sisters.
And, of course, there were the "cousins." Samuel Hawkes, president of T. G. Hawkes at his father's passing, was listed as a cousin—but then, so was T. G., himself, a detail making this label nearly useless. Likewise, for that matter, for labeling Penrose as a cousin.
There was another "cousin" mentioned in this same enigmatic category: a woman by the name of Alice Hawkes Robinson—the same Alice we had seen mentioned in the then yet-to-happen obituary of Penrose's wife, Marion. In this earlier obituary, however, we have the luxury of learning more about this Alice than in Marion's meager column inch coverage.
For one thing, we learn the name of Alice's husband: Edward H. Robinson of Toronto, Canada. Whether we will learn that Edward's middle initial will reward us with the given name Harry is yet to be seen. But we can hope.
Of greater interest, at this point, is the detail that followed Alice's introduction:
A cousin, Mrs. Alice Hawkes Robinson, wife of Edward H. Robinson, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was active during World War I as a nurse overseas and is now with the Canadian Women's Army Corps.
Here we find enough detail to discern the possible connection between Alice and Marion, the woman who, long after their possible World War I connection, was to become Penrose's wife. Whether or not this woman was the Alice of the mystery photo album, could it be that Alice was also the matchmaker who introduced her good friend Marion to the cousin who eventually married her?