Thank you Jim Havens! Thank you many times over for sharing A Guide to American Cut and Engraved Glassware. The shear volume of your work is astounding — over 900 pages of text and photos when printed out in its entirety. The Sixth Edition, which was essentially completed in late 2009, contains a diverse wealth of detailed information regarding American Brilliant cut glass. The information that you carefully gleaned from several years of research offers your readers an abundance of fresh insights, previously unavailable facts and corrections which promote a clearer understanding of A.B.C.G.
We are pleased that you gave us your permission to post any or all of A Guide to our website. Starting in early April of 2010, selected portions of A Guide will be posted to this website. Final postings will be completed by mid-summer, 2012. Your Guide will now be known to a wider audience of collectors, dealers and students of American Brilliant cut glass.
About the Author
Jim Havens was born and raised in Olean, NY where he attended the local public schools, graduating from high school in 1949 as a “forty-niner.” Olean is a small city on the loop the Allegheny River makes as it briefly traverses southwestern New York State. Jim’s experiences in Olean during the 30s and 40s were typical of kids in small-town America during the end of the Great Depression and the years of the Second World War.
Jim had his first personal encounter with cut glass when he was perhaps five or six years old, while the family was still living in the old house. During early afternoons the sun would often pour in to the parlor. One day its rays struck a cut-glass knife rest that Jim was playing with. Immediately the solar beam was refracted, casting rainbows around the room. Although Jim had never heard of Isaac Newton, he was greatly impressed by his own ability to “make rainbows” which, subsequently, he often did. Many years later the fully-faceted dumbbell-shaped knife rest was closely examined and the acid-etched trademark of the O. F. Egginton Company of Corning, NY was discovered on its shank. “Egginton . . . employed one of the few lapidarists in Corning.” (Farrar and Spillman, 1979, p. 134)
With the death of his mother in 1978, and her sister two years later, Jim was called upon to close up two households, dispose of their contents, and sell a two-family house in Olean, a full-day’s drive from Kingston where he lived. Along with all this, Jim was rapidly approaching the age of 50. He had been associated with meteorology since the sixth grade; it was, he realized, time for a change! Moreover, he considered that his academic pursuits were part of his past, not his future. He therefore decided that the school year 1980-81 would be his farewell as a professor at University of Rhode Island and academia. Although this decision was radical — and financially hazardous — it proved to be one that Jim has never regretted.
When it was necessary for an appraiser to evaluate the contents of the two-family house in North Olean, Jim was told that the Havens estate had several pieces of cut glass and that they were worth about $35 each. Even though he knew next-to-nothing about cut glass, Jim was immediately suspicious. After all, it made no sense that a five-and-a-half inch knife rest would have the same evaluation as, for example, a 10″ diameter bowl that was also signed with the Egginton trademark. (Subsequently Jim learned that the bowl was cut in Egginton’s Filigree pattern.) From this experience, it was evident to Jim that he would have to undertake an extensive amount of research if he were ever to arrive at reasonable evaluations for the other pieces of cut glass in the estate’s collection. This research was not looked upon as a chore because Jim had quickly become captivated by cut glass which up to then had been associated in his mind primarily with Havens/Tracy dinners during holidays when most of the family pieces would be put to practical use on the dining-room table. They included a third signed Egginton piece, a small nappy cut in the realistic Lyre pattern.
Other cut-glass items inherited by Jim included several by T. G. Hawkes & Company, including an impressive 14″H vase in the company’s Kent pattern, cut on blank no. 1202. This is the only item in the collection that was photographed prior to its sale. The vase undoubtedly came with the old house, while the following two alcohol-related items were acquired much later, but before the old house was sold. They may have been wedding gifts; Jim’s parents were married in 1930. Also, the owner of Olean’s finest jewelry store, probably the source of these quality items, was a personal friend of the family, so they could have been direct gifts.
One of these items was a cocktail set that consisted of a 12-inch tall shaker, maximum width five-and-a-half inches, in selenium red glass by Steuben with sterling silver mounts. It was richly engraved with vines and small blosoms and was accompanied by eight four-and-a-half inch tall baluster-stemmed cocktail glasses also in selenium red glass and finely engraved with the popular “fighting cocks” motif. All of these items were signed Hawkes. The 9-piece cocktail set sold for $425 at a Skinner’s auction in 1983 where the selenium red glass was not identified.
The other alcohol-related item was a 16-inch tall cylindrical “martini mixer” that was cut and engraved in the pattern shown in Farrar and Spillman, 1979, illus. 428 (left). It was signed Hawkes on its applied, four-and-a-half inch diameter foot. The mixer was accompanied by a chrome-plated stirrer. As far as Jim knows, this item was never used — probably because no one was quite sure how to use it! It sold privately for $200 in 1982.
There was one other inherited cut-glass item that should be mentioned. At the height of the Depression, Jim’s father had the opportunity to buy a 14-inch diameter, one-piece cut-glass punch bowl. He could not resist it, even though his wife, the practical one in the family, was less than pleased. It was probably the only piece of cut glass that Jim’s father ever bought. The punch bowl was re-sold as-is, with several minor chips, to a casual collector before Jim had begun to use the services of a cut-glass repairman. The new owners were so pleased with their purchase that they promptly placed it, complete with iced punch, on a low table directly in front of a roaring fire. The effect was very impressive until the punch bowl cracked, causing a considerable mess! Later Jim realized that the punch bowl was made by C. Dorflinger & Sons of White Mills, PA. It was cut in the company’s Marlboro pattern.
Because Jim’s interest in cut glass continued to grow, it occurred to him that he might enjoy the buying and selling of American cut glass as a vocation in place of his academic activity. To do this, Jim would need an ample supply of collectible cut glass as well as the means to “restore” the glass he found to an appearance that would be acceptable to his customers. Almost all cut glass will be found in less than perfect (“mint”) condition with a seemingly inevitable collection of chips, scratches, and other blemishes. Restoration of such items is a highly specialized craft and is one that is usually acceptable — in fact, it was expected by most of Jim’s customers — providing the buyer is informed by the seller as to the nature and extent of the restoration. Luckily, Jim was able to make contact with an Irish-trained glass cutter, Shay O’Brien, who was in the business of restoring damaged American brilliant cut glass. He had a shop in nearby New Haven, CT and a reputation that was excellent. Had Jim not found Shay he would not have been able to set up business, as Hobstar Antiques, which he operated from 1981 to the early 2000s. Glass was sold primarily by mail-order and by appointment.
Shay grew up in Waterford, Ireland and was trained at the local glassworks, followed by experience in cutting- and engraving-shops in England and in Canada. Jim would usually take his damaged glass by car to Shay’s basement workshop. There he would invariably learn something practical about the restoration of antique cut glass. These visits, and there were many, were invaluable to Jim and they are reflected in the contents of this GUIDE. And the relationship was a good one. It continued until Jim moved away from Rhode Island in 1989, and Shay eventually transferred his business to the Pittsburgh, PA area.
Initially, Hobstar Antiques was quite successful. But as the 1980s progressed it became increasingly difficult to find quality cut glass for resale at reasonable prices, at least in the southern New England area that Jim searched, often weekly. This situation did not change for the better when Jim moved to the tiny village of Treadwell in the western Catskill Mountains of New York State early in 1989, a move that Jim should never have made. It took him until 1994 to sell his property in Treadwell!
After selling his property, Jim returned to Olean for ten years, then, in 2005, he moved to Corning, NY, “the crystal city” and home of the Corning Museum of Glass and its Rakow Research Library.
Note: Jim Havens died March 9, 2012