Born in Ireland, Hawkes immigrated to Brooklyn in 1862, and then moved to Corning to work for the Hoare and Dailey Cut Glass Firm. He opened his own cut glass firm in 1880. This firm, T.G.Hawkes & Co., soon became famous for quality wares. Hawkes' glassware was used in the White House from 1885 until 1938. In 1903, he brought Frederick Carder from England to establish the Steuben Glass Works.