John Isaac Hawkins : a Biographical Timeline 1772 - 1854


Timeline: Page 3 of 3 (1813 -1854)

A notice far a forthcoming auction sale to be held 16 July 1813 by Mr H. Phillips of 73 New Bond-street reveals yet another atempt to sell Hawkins Claviole

By Mr H. Phillips, at this Great Room, No 73, New Bond-/street, on Friday next, July 16.

HAWKINS's PATENT CLAVIOLE, a curious/ Grand Muscial Instrument, to produce the effect of a/ band of violins, violas, violincellos, and double bases, as well/ as close imitations of flutes, clarionets, flageolets, horns, &c. to-/ gether with the full power and grandeur of the organ (Morning Post 14 July 1813)

[Author’s note: Newly identified information, sourced by Debenham, 19 August 2017]

Apparently once more the instrument remained unsold since in the autumn of 1813, Hawkins himself took a claviole to Brighton where it was initially exhibited in the Auction Mart, St James-street and then in a room at the Marine Library. He again proposed opening a subscription book on his return to London, giving his address as his Essence of Coffee Manufactory, No. 70 Great Titchfield-street, Marylebone, but it seems this never materialised in practice (Hawkins, Mechanics Magazine 1845, p127).

From the later wry observations of his nephew Samuel Thompson, we may glean that the above premises must also have been the site of a sugar refinery and that Hawkins borrowed money on a number of occasions from his sister Anna, both for this and other purposes, she having been left a substantial settlement on the death of her husband in 1810.

...Also, he borrowed my mother's money, to be expended for the good of mankind, and the elaboration of the teeming offspring of his inexhaustible inventive faculty... ( S Thompson, 1884 'History of a Man of Genius' in Reminiscences of a Canadian Pioneer, Chapter 2)

From Hawkins own comments relating to his sugar refining activities, written in 1827 and published in 1828, it appears that he had worked in collaboration with E C Howard, inventor of an important sugar refining process, in the years leading to Howard's death in 1816 ( Reportory of Patent Inventions, 1828 - see 1828 for full reference and further details).

1818 In this year Hawkins appears in Johnstone's Commercial Directory at 79, Titchfield-street, London, with his occupation given as 'Essence of coffee manufacturer'.
1819 An extensive description of Hawkins' Claviole is found in Abraham Rees' The Cylopaedia, Vol. 14 published in this year. A plate illustrating the design of the instrument appears in The Cyclopeadia, Plates Vol III, Plate XIV

The first mechanical pencil that had a mechanism that propelled the lead and whose lead could be replaced was patented in 1822 by Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins in Britain. Mordan changed business partners a few times until, in 1837, he decided to start manufacturing mechanical pencils alone in his "S.Mordan & Co." company. (History of the Mechanical Pencil - Inventor of Mechanism)

Hawkins is listed as a Patent Agent in Pigot's London Directory in this year.


According to his later obituary (published in 1865, 11 years after his death) John Isaac Hawkins was elected as a member of the London based Institution of Civil Engineers on 27 April 1824 (Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1855-6, Vol XXV, p.512). Interestingly his address in the list of elected members in 1824 gives his address as 355, Forth Street New York at that time, though other evidence strongly suggests he was still in London.

1825 An announcement in The Hereford Journal on 7 December 1825 reports the granting of a patent to John Isaac Hawkins of Chase Cottage, Pancras Vale, Middlesex 'for improvments on certain implements, machines or apparatus, used in the manufacturing of books, whether bound or unbound'

Writing in 1845, Hawkins reports that in 1827 he went abroad for some years and before leaving removed all the strings off the instrument [Claviole] to prevent their breaking in his absence. He goes on to say that after his return to England he had postponed restringing it with the intention of adding two important improvements (i) the means of tightening the horsehair when rendered slack from frequent pressure on the strings  (ii) placing 18 of the bass notes under the power of the feet by introducing foot pedals.

His nephew Samuel Thompson recounts in his autobiography that in about 1825 Hawkins had been selected by the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria to design and superintend the first extensive works erected in Vienna for the promotion of the new manufacture of beet-root sugar and from there went on to Paris to perform the same duties for the French government (S Thompson, 1884 Reminiscences of a Canadian Pioneer, Chapter 2)


An article by Hawkins in The Reportory of Patent Inventions described a number of improvements he made to the third patent of the process of refining sugar taken out by Charles Edward Howard in 1814, introducing his remarks thus:

OBSERVATIONS - Having given Mr. Howard's three specifications entire, with such observations as the respective subjects appeared to require for elucidation, and for showing the present practice of the new process, I think it a duty I owe to myself to point out some of the improvements and modifications that I invented and introduced into the sugar houses: for the most part during Mr Howard's life, and by his particular request...

Having described his improvements he concludes:

Upon the whole, I think I have shown that the process is indebted to me for much of the practical and advantageous form it assumed after the patents were obtained; and it will be in the recollection of many sugar refiners and numerous other persons, that Mr. Howard, in his lifetime, frequently and openly acknowledged the great assistance he received, in carrying his process into effect, from my experience in engineering operations/ JOHN ISAAC HAWKINS / Chase Cottage, Hampstead Road, London, June 28, 1827. (Reportory of Patent Inventions 1828. Vol 5 pp 397-404)

1834 Magene Daniels, 1980, reports that in this year Hawkins developed a successful method of embedding small pieces of iridium in the tip of a gold pen, thus creating a pen with a durable and smooth writing point. He sold his first pen in London in 1834 and in 1835 sold his business to a Cleveland entrepreneur, Aaron Porter. In due course Porter imported the manufacture of the pen to the United States and by mid-century the USA was the world leader in gold pen manufacture. (Maygene Daniels 1980. 'The Ingenious Pen: American Writing Implements from the Eighteenth Century to the Twentieth' in The American Archivist. Summer 1980)

Anna Hawkins, wife of John Isaac, died and was buried 15 July 1838 at St Pancras Church. Her obituary casts light on the orgins of their relationship, as well as her later life in London

'She was a native of the United States of America, where Mr. H. married her forty years ago. He was intimately acquainted with her for three years prvious to her marriage, and judged her to be a suitable match for him in every way, except that of her religious creed, she being a member of the Calvanistic Baptist persuasion. In order to undermine this ground of disunion of minds, Mr. H. put in her way some of the writings of Swedensborg, which after two years, seemed to make a little impression. He then presented her with the Treatise on Conjugal Love, and requested her serious perusal of it, and candid opinion of its contents. She expressed approbation of the greater part; upon which he made proposals of marriage, and they were accepted. But she did not formally recede from the Baptist church until she was driven away by the persecutions of the bigoted part of her friends; upon which she clung to her husband, and became an open professor of the New Church verities.' (The Intellectual Repository and New Jerusalem Magazine,1838-39 Vol. 5, pp 277-8

Less than two months after his wife's death, on 6 September 1838 Hawkins remarried. His bride was Alice Hogan, a widow. According to a family history site compiled by members of the Hogan family, Alice Hogan (nee Reynolds) was born in 1798, daugher of Captain Richard Reynolds R.N. The site also states that there were five children of the Hogan marriage, all baptised together at the Swedensborgian Church on 18 Dec 1831, thus providing evidence that she was of the same faith.


Hawkins marriage to Alice Hogan was destined to be short lived. She died in 1839 and her burial is recorded at St Andrews Holborn 5 July 1839

1843 John Isaac Hawkins is listed as a steel pen maker at 20, Judd Place, New Road London in the Post Office Directory of London in this year.
1844 On 14 February 1844 Hawkins was married for the third time to Emma Amelia Dickson in Warnham, Sussex. Later accounts of his final years in America suggest that she was a very young girl at the time, possibly young enough to have been his granddaughter.

In this year Hawkins is listed as a gold pen maker at 26 Judd Place W., New Road in the Post Office Directory of London.

In his article dated 13 August 1845 recounting the design and invention of his Claviole, Hawkins mentions that he was at that time contemplating travelling with it through Europe and America, exhibiting it at concerts and giving lessons on its construction to musical instrument makers willing to pay him for the results of his long experience in order to recoup some of the financial investment he has made in its development (Hawkins, 1845 Mechanics Magazine, p131). Sadly it is clear from subsequent events that this was a mere pipe dream, destined never to materialise in reality.


Hawkins is listed as a Civil Engineer at 30, Charles Square in the Post Office Directory of London.

According to his later obituary (Proceedings of Civil Engineers, 1865-6) he returned to America in the autumn of this year, with the hopeful intention of perfecting several inventions there. An extract from a farewell letter written at the time reads:

The creator has consituted me an inventor, and I consider every useful invention given to me, as a commission from Him in trust, for the benefit of mankind; and I should deem myself guilty of a breach of that trust, were I not to use every reasonable exertion to carry the same into effect, as long as it can afford me due support. Society is now enjoying many comforts and conveniences from my inventions, while I have great difficulty in procuring common necessaries.


There is firm evidence that Hawkins returned to live in Bordentown, New Jersey, America.

He made his will there on 22 July 1850 (four years before his death), a simple document in which he describes himself as a Civil Engineer and Everlasting Pen Maker. He left all his estate to his wife Emma Amelia. (Probate Records, 1794-1902 [Essex County, New Jersey]; Author: New Jersey. Surrogate's Court (Essex); Probate Place: Essex, New Jersey; accessed via Ancestry, July 2017).

1854 Hawkins died in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, 28 June 1854, lonely and penniless, with only his young wife to look after him. (J B Gilder, 1880. Bordentown and the Bonapartes in Scibner’s Monthly Vol. 0021, Issue 1 [Nov. 1880]; and S Thompson, 1884  Reminiscences of a Canadian Pioneer for the Last Fifty Years: An Autobiography. Chapter 1 note 1) His will was proved on 6 July 1854, with probate granted to his widow, Emma Amelia (Probate records, 1794-1902 - see 1850 for full reference).

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