What Should We Believe?

 

A Critical Look at THE RICH CUT GLASS OF CHARLES GUERNSEY TUTHILL by Maurice Crofford. (Texas A&M Univ. Press, College Station, TX. 2001, xiii + 211 pp.)

Crofford’s book, a mixture of fact and fiction, fails to qualify as a reliable account of the history and products of the Tuthill Cut Glass Company of Middletown, NY. Some of the author’s flights of fancy and avoidable errors are detailed in this combined correction sheet and book review, but they represent only a fraction of the many missteps taken by the author. Nevertheless, they are typical of what the reader will encounter in this poorly conceived and carelessly written narrative, so they are reported at length in the sections that follow.

If the reader of this book is like this writer he will repeatedly find himself thinking: “This is interesting”, immediately followed by: “But is this true?” Unfortunately, we are given little help in answering this question. Incomplete, inappropriate, and incorrect references — major road blocks thrown up by the author — repeatedly frustrate the enquiring reader who soon discovers that research methodology is a subject unknown to the author.

Interviews with family descendants are frequently cited, but verifiable information based on them is seldom given, although letters, personal papers, and even “line drawings” are said to exist. Family tradition, with all its uncertainty, looms large. There is no indication that the author has received any training in, or has had any prior experience with, interview techniques. This is important because an interview requires expertise on the part of the interviewer in order to minimize the personal bias that is present and to maximize the amount of reliable information that can be obtained. The audio interviews themselves have been retained by author; apparently no copies have been deposited in any museum.

Crofford frequently resorts to make-believe conversations and introspections. In skilled hands this approach can be effective. But here it results in unsubstantiated fantasies that add nothing to the story, are probably mostly untrue, and are distractions. In addition, the book is crammed with trivia (not always related to glass) — padding that is necessary in order to produce a book-length manuscript. A gallery of photographs of Tuthill glass is presented as a last minute, slap-dash addition. The photos are not integrated with the text, and several patterns are incorrectly identified. Crofford’s misspellings ask for, and receive, a light-hearted treatment in this review. His mistakes, and especially his plagiarisms, on the other hand, demand a much more serious approach.

Not long ago Crofford wrote an article that concludes with this remarkable statement: “I make it a point never to use imagination as a fact, for to do so would be misleading and could be detrimental to the American Cut Glass Association and its collectors and dealers” (emphasis added) (note 1). We leave it to the ACGA (and its collectors and dealers) to determine whether or not this book is detrimental. The rest of us can only marvel at the supreme irony of Crofford’s statement and his chutzpa. THE RICH CUT GLASS OF CHARLES GUERNSEY TUTHILL is the kind of book that should remain on a bookshop’s shelf until it is remaindered. A purchaser would need only to wait in order to buy it at a considerable, and much deserved, discount. He should not have long to wait.

Anyone interested in reliable material concerning this company should consult the references that are given in the Tuthill Cut Glass Company file in Part 2. The Crofford references listed there are for “completeness” only. They are not recommended.

NOTE:

1. Should facts be proven?, The Hobstar, Vol. 22, No. 10, pp. 1, 6 (Jul 2000).



CROFFORD’S MISTAKES (A SELECTION)

 

Some Nonsense about the Russian Pattern

Page 17, Fiction:

[Summer 1882] Harry Sinclaire had heard that Hawkes had just received a grant for the company’s first patent. It was patent number 12,982, and it became known as the Russian pattern.

Fact:

Patent number 12,982 is for a pattern whose name has not yet been discovered. It is not the Russian pattern.

Page 24, Fiction:

Also, Charles would have a chance to work with designers like Philip McDonald [MacDonald]. After Philip secured the patent for the Russian pattern and assigned the pattern to Hawkes, he became the hero of Corning.

Fact:

Philip MacDonald did not design the Russian pattern. (Does this make him an anti-hero?)

Pages 24-25, Fiction:

Shortly after June, 1882, Richard Briggs … visited Hawkes Rich Cut Glass to order a complete, 600-piece banquet service for the Russian Embassy in Washington …

Fact:

“…[N]o evidence of any kind has been found to support the story of the Russian ambassador ordering a set [of glassware cut in the Russian pattern].” (Spillman 1996, pp. 237-240).

Page 25, Fiction:

The White House in Washington, D. C. … selected the Russian pattern for its 1885 order for a banquet service of 600 pieces.

Fact:

“… [T]he evidence does establish that the glassware [ordered in 1885] was another reorder of the Lincoln pattern set, not the Hawkes Russian pattern which was first supplied to the White House in 1891.” (Spillman 1996, p. 246). (N. B.: Spillman’s accounts are authoritative; her only error regarding the Russian pattern concerns MacDonald and his patent.)

Page 86, Fiction:

Upon arriving at T. G. Hawkes and Company [on 1 May 1898] Charles went to Tom Hawkes’s office. Hawkes asked Charles if his workload was such that he could cut a large order in the Russian pattern. Charles assured Hawkes that such an order would come at a good time. The company was just finishing the last items of the orders on file. Hawles told Charles about the order his company had received from M. W. Beveridge for the Whie House, and he wanted Charles to cut eleven dozen finger bowls and an equal number of ice-cream servers. Hawkes told Charles to order the blanks from Corning Glass Works and have them charged to the T. G. Hawkes and Company account…. Hawkes was pleased to subcontract the cutting of the finger bowls and the ice cream servers to the Charles G. Tuthill Glass Company. A completion date of October 1 was required in order to meet the delivery date requested by the White House.

… The order was cut, polished, washed, dried, and delivered to T. G. Hawkes and Company the week of September 26, 1898.

Fact:

Crofford provides one reference, to Spillman 1996 (p. 247) where this order is mentioned. Unfortunately, he misinterprets the information given there: the 11 1/2 dozen figure (which he rounds down to 11 dozen) refers to the total number of individual items ordered from Hawkes. The order is detailed in the standard reference for this subject, Spillman’s WHITE HOUSE GLASSWARE (1989, p. 101) where the author makes the point that “Hawkes was using Dorflinger stemware blanks in the 1890s”, not Corning blanks as claimed by Crofford. Corning blanks were confined to larger items at this time. Oddly, Crofford does not mention the copper-wheel engraving that would have been required on each piece.

The number of pieces actually ordered varied from one to two dozen for each item of tableware that was to be cut in the Russian pattern. The items included goblets, clarets, wines, champagnes, and sherries in addition to the two mentioned by Crofford: finger bowls (two dozen ordered, not 11 dozen) and ice-cream servers (one dozen ordered, not “an equal number”). The total number of items to be cut by Tuthill, therefore, was 36, not 264 (= 11 x 12 x 2). Crofford then takes the number 264 and “runs with it”, discussing in detail just how the three Tuthill cutters could best complete the order by October 1st. No “requested delivery date” by the White House is mentioned by Spillman who indicates that this order was placed on July 22nd, well after Crofford’s date of May 1st. Spillman nowhere mentions the Charles G. Tuthill Glass Company. What is particularly unfortunate is the fact that Crofford has taken incorrect information, applied considerable imagination, and has come up with a mostly (entirely?) fictional account for the unwary reader.


 

The Brazilian Pattern and Beyond

Page 43, Fiction:

Hawkes had returned the previous week [in Sep 1888] from the Innescana [Inniscarra] House in Ireland…. Tom Hawkes handed Charles a very complicated line drawing of a pattern he had designed … Charles, seeing that the cuts were all straight line cuts … assured Hawkes he would be able to cut the pattern … Hawkes had named the new pattern Brazilian. He planned to patent the pattern and enter it into production in late 1889 or early 1890.

Facts and Discussion:

The Brazilian pattern was not given that name until shortly before 26 Mar 1889: “We have changed the name of our new pattern from Venetian to Brazilian.” (Spillman 1996, p. 186). Parenthetically, this is the reason why the Brazilian pattern does not appear on the invoices that accompanied Hawkes’s glass shipment, early in March 1889, to the Universal Exposition in Paris. Nevertheless, the Brazilian pattern was exhibited there — on a 15″D, two part punch bowl — but it was called Venetian at the time its invoice was prepared. Only one example of this new pattern reached Paris, probably because the pattern was so new. Its patent application was filed on 29 Apr 1889, and the patent was granted on 28 May 1889. Spillman reports, however, that domestic orders for the Brazilian pattern were filled during the spring of 1889 (Spillman 1996, p. 186). (The Hawkes Venetian pattern we know today is an entirely different pattern, one that was patented in 1890.)

Because Hawkes’s “new pattern” was not given the name Brazilian until sometime in March 1889, it is impossible for Crofford to use this name for the pattern Charles was assigned to cut on a ten-inch plate in September 1888. If the pattern, perchance, were the one that eventually was named Brazilian, then the assignment would surely have been a challenging one for an eighteen-year-old who had just begun the second year of his apprenticeship.

It should be noted that Crofford, using the patent drawings on file for the Brazilian pattern, shifts from “a very complicated line drawing” to a description of the pattern as one that is composed of “all straight line cuts”. The former is the complete Brazilian pattern, the latter a modification that was also included in the patent. The ten-inch plate Charles was given likely required the complete pattern. But even if it did not, the modified pattern still requires a circular miter cut (overlooked by Crofford) at the base of its fan scallops. That, too, would not have been an easy task for someone in Charles’s position.

Crofford has Charles completely finishing cut-glass patterns such as a “pillar and diamond” pattern, and the Norwood and Triumph patterns during his first year of apprenticeship, 1887-1888 (p. 33). The Norwood pattern is first listed, but not illustrated, in a c1890-1895 catalog; Triumph in a c1900-1910 catalog. The Norwood is shown, for the first time, in the c1900-1910 catalog that also illustrates the Triumph pattern. Crofford uses these illustrations to describe the patterns Charles is supposedly cutting. In his second year, 1888-1889, Charles is described polishing a vase in the Bengal pattern, a pattern which first appears in a catalog that has been dated 1910-1915. Amazingly, Crofford has Charles cutting the same size and type of blank as those illustrated in the two catalogs: a 7″D plate for the Norwood pattern and a 12″H vase for the Bengal pattern. The caption for the Triumph pattern states that the bowl “came in four different diameters”, so Crofford is cut some slack. He opts for a ten-incher (Sinclaire and Spillman 1997, pp. 83, 84, 93).

Also during his second year Charles is required to produce line drawings and a written description for T. G. Hawkes of the latter’s famous Chrysanthemum pattern. “Thomas Hawkes was pleased with the line drawings and the written description Charles completed on the Chrysanthemum pattern.” (p. 35). He should have been astonished! The application for a patent to cover the Chrysanthemum pattern was not filed until 10 Oct 1890. Can we really believe that a finished example of this pattern was available for Charles to analyze two years earlier?

Crofford has elected to describe in words the Grecian and Chrysanthemum patterns (pp. 33-34). And he does so badly. Worse, there are no illustrations to help the reader visualize these important patterns. The description of the Chrysanthemum pattern is particularly unfortunate, especially when compared to the actual description (specification) as published: an excellent description of this abstract, break-through pattern that reflects one aspect of the contemporary Art Nouveau movement. Who wrote the description, we do not know. Perhaps Hawkes himself. Thankfully, it was not turned into “lawyereeze” by his company’s law firm.

Crofford’s Chrysanthemum misrepresentations continue (p. 46):

Concerning the 1889 Paris Exposition, Crofford erroneously believes not only that no complete inventory of the pieces sent to Paris exists, but also that the Chrysanthemum pattern was on display there: “Charles vividly recalled a twelve-inch plate cut in the Chrysanthemum pattern”, Crofford enthuses when describing pieces supposedly sent to Paris. And he concludes: “It was the two full dinner services of crystal cut in the Grecian and Chrysanthemum pattern[s] that won the international prize for Hawkes Rich Cut Glass”. Not true. Crofford has an urgent need to re-read THE AMERICAN CUT GLASS INDUSTRY by Jane Shadel Spillman, starting with Chapter 9, The Paris Exposition.


 

William Fritsche and H. William Fritchie

Page 47:

John Hoare had hired William Fritsche, an English glasscarver from Thomas Webb and Son(sic). Fritsche had moved to Corning to engrave for J. Hoare and Company during preparations for the exhibit for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago [1893].

A. If the William Fritsche (b. 1853, Meistersdorf, Bohemia) of “Fritsche Ewer” fame is intended, then it should be noted that he never moved to this country from England, much less worked for Hoare. But he did work for Thomas Webb & Sons at the Dennis Glass House in the Stourbridge district, where he produced his masterpiece, and “where he spent his entire working life” (Hajdamach 1991, p. 162).

B. If Heronimous William Fritchie (originally Fritsche; b. c1860, Meistersdorf, Bohemia) is intended, then it should be noted that Fritchie moved to this country from Dublin. He previously lived in England during what appears to have been a brief period between his emigration from Bohemia and his arrival in Scotland, where he received his training in engraving before moving on to Ireland. There is no record of any employment at Thomas Webb & Sons. After moving to the United States, c1888, Fritchie — who had Anglicized his name by the time he was working in Ireland — worked for T. G. Hawkes & Company and had an independent shop. There is no record of employment at J. Hoare & Company (Sinclaire and Spillman 1997, pp. 142-145). On p. 71 in Crofford’s book the engraver in question is called ‘Bill” Fritsche and is engraver A; on p. 77 he is called William Fritche and is engraver B, but with a new spelling.

The foregoing examples combine two fine engravers, Fritsche and Fritchie, into one person, which undoubtedly saved Crofford some tedious explanations, but does nothing but add confusion to a situation that collectors have already found somewhat bewildering.