Aluminum was used in Mr. Hawes’ foundry on a small scale. It was known to be light-weight, inexpensive, and corrosion resistant; all the desirable qualities for use in making markers. Little was known of the use of aluminum alloys in the casting of large thin sections containing detail, but no one had made an effort to do any research or work on the possibility. Mr. Hawes was convinced it could be done. After 18 months of testing, Hawes revealed sample aluminum castings he felt could be the solution.
Now he faced a second challenge. No one made pattern letters in both cases smaller than one inch. Hawes announced a cash prize for a letter design, and entries were made by several well-known hand-lettering artists. He chose the winner, a derivative of the old Caslin Font, made a few changes, and invented the Sewah script.
About 1929, the Ohio Revolutionary Trail Commission wanted plaques to mark the Old Revolutionary Trail throughout the state. Because cast aluminum was so new, the Commission was skeptical about the new innovation’s durability. It took all the resourcefulness at his command for Hawes to persuade the commission to at least look and consider the idea.
When the appointed day arrived for the delegates to view the samples, Hawes handed each one a sledgehammer, the perfect tool to test the quality. The markers were bent, dented, and scarred, but none broke and every letter was still legible. The Commission was won over and agreed the Sewah marker was what they had been looking for. This initial project involved 110 large markers and some 400 smaller ones. These markers were the first of the thousands of roadside historical markers that are now seen throughout the United States.