Friday, January 20, 2017

Not Your Typical Irish Immigrant

To get a fuller picture of why, exactly, young Penrose Hawkes left Ireland to find his way to Corning, New York, we need to step back another generation in the Hawkes family history. There, we'll begin to examine the immigrant story of yet another young Irishman, leaving his home for the uncertainties of a new land.

It was not the photograph album I found in a local antique shop that opened up this chapter in Penrose's family history, but let's just say the album served as a handy springboard. From there, we gleaned enough clues to determine that the seemingly-annoyed subject of the 1936 album's pages was actually a thirty six year old man named John Pim Penrose Hawkes.

That full name led us to discover a copy of his passport application—not in his native Ireland, the setting of the photos in the album, but in Corning, New York, Penrose's more recent home. The passport application kindly explained to us that, by 1916, the young Mr. Hawkes had been employed by T. G. Hawkes and Company, a manufacturer of what is called cut glass.

As it turns out, the company's proprietor, T. G. Hawkes, had himself been an Irish immigrant, though being much older than Penrose, he had arrived on our shores in 1863. Much as had the young Penrose, T. G. Hawkes had left his home at the young age of seventeen.

The elder Hawkes did not quite fulfill the Irish immigrant stereotype we've become accustomed to reading about from that time period. By the time he left home at seventeen, he had already spent two years at the then-Queen's College in Cork (now known as University College Cork), studying civil engineering.

His, too, had been the rather comfortable position of son of a member of the landed gentry in Ireland—child of a family whose heritage included a "settler" founder who had emigrated from England to Ireland in the 1700s. Being the second son, however, meant it was unlikely that he would ever inherit the family's holdings. Perhaps on this account, as well as the more oft-cited desire for adventure and to see the world, Thomas Gibbons Hawkes decided it would be in his best interest to seek his fortune elsewhere.

His, as it turned out, was a good fortune. Landing in New York City, though at first struggling to find a job, he happened to make the acquaintance of John Hoare, senior partner in a glass cutting firm in the city. Hawkes' subsequent affiliation at Hoare & Dailey eventually led him to the city of Corning in upstate New York, as well as equipping him with training in the art of what later came to be called American Brilliant Cut Glass.

Eventually, T. G. Hawkes established his own shop in Corning. Starting small, he patented designs and produced cut glass creations which soon found their way into the hands of some of the most recognized American names of that time period. Astors and Vanderbilts vied with presidents—American, Cuban and Mexican—and European royalty for purchase of cut glass creations by T. G. Hawkes and Company.

It was at T. G. Hawkes' sudden death in 1913 that his only son took the reins of the company. Shortly after that point, the thirty-something Samuel Hawkes reached out across the ocean to family still living in Ireland for assistance in running his inherited business concern.

One of those relatives turned out to be Samuel's young cousin from County Cork, Penrose Hawkes, who in 1916 picked up his uncle's immigrant story of over fifty years prior to also pursue a career in the world of cut glass in America.


  1. I enjoyed reading this fascinating story of a "not typical" Irish immigrant.

    1. Well, you've got to admit, he had it much better than the starving specimens escaping the famine just a decade before his arrival.

  2. I agree with Marian, this is a fascinating story.

    1. It is, no doubt about it. And the more we research it, the more that seems to surface about this family. I still just can't get over what has unfolded from such an unassuming discovery rescued from an antique shop!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...