Edwin Isaac Baker 

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Edwin Isaac Baker : Photographer in Hailsham from 1868 to 1896

Edwin Isaac Baker  (1837-1912)


Edwin Isaac Baker was born on 2nd February 1837, the son of Sarah Lambert and Isaac Baker, a travelling "chapman and hawker" who later set up a 'marine supplies' store in Hailsham.

Isaac Baker, Edwin's father, was born in Alfriston around 1809. About 1834, Isaac Baker married Sarah Lambert (born 1805 Hailsham). A daughter named Margaret was born to the couple on 12th September 1835. Edwin Isaac Baker, their first son, was born in 1837. At least six children followed - Frances (born c1839), Caleb (born 22 July 1840), George (born c1843), Mary (born 1845), Emma (born 1847) and Ruth (born1849). Isaac Baker held strong religious beliefs and for 44 years he was a Deacon of the Hailsham Baptist Chapel.

Early Working Life

At the time of the 1851 Census, Isaac Baker is described as a "Travelling Chapman and Hawker", aged 41. Edwin Isaac Baker, his eldest son, was working as an "errand boy". Caleb Baker, his 10 year old brother, was employed in making rope halters. When the 1861 Census was taken, Edwin Baker was working as a grocer for James Sanders, who owned a Grocery and Draper's shop on Hailsham's High Street. Isaac Baker was running a shop that sold marine stores (sailcloth, tarpaulin, rope etc.) and his youngest son George Baker, aged 18, was employed as a twine packer.

[ABOVE] A portrait of Edwin Isaac Baker, Hailsham's leading photographer for over 25 years, from 1868 to 1896. Edwin Isaac Baker was also the proprietor of a bookstore and stationery business in Hailsham's High Street.

[PHOTO - Courtesy of Susan Guhm]

[LEFT] The Hailsham photographer Edwin Isaac Baker (1837-1912) pictured with his youngest son George Joseph Baker (born 1884) and two of his daughters.

Baker's Bookshop  in Hailsham's High Street.

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of  Isaac Baker (1809-1882), the father of Hailsham photographer Edwin Isaac Baker (c1880).
Marriage and Family

Around 1864, Edwin Baker married Mary Hunnisett (born 1843, Hellingly, Sussex ). Their first child Amy Sarah arrived in 1865 and a son, Edwin William Baker was born on 2nd December 1867. Between 1867 and 1869, Edwin Isaac Baker took over the running of a bookstore and stationery business in Hailsham's High Street. From 1869 to 1880, Mary Baker gave birth to seven more children - Ernest (born c1869), Ruth (born c1870), James (born 3rd July 1872 - died 5th October 1872 ), Margaret (born c1874), Thomas (born 11th March 1875 - died 11th May 1875), Emma Mary (born c1877) and Alice (born 1880). On 24th June 1875, Edwin and Mary's eldest son, Edwin William Baker, died at the age of 7.

[ABOVE] The photographic studio of  Edwin Isaac Baker which was situated on the upper floor of his bookshop and stationery business in Hailsham.

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Susan Guhm]

Edwin Baker - Photographer

An advertisement in the Hailsham Almanac of 1869, provides evidence that Edwin Baker had established a photographic portrait studio above his business premises around 1868. In this advertisement, E. I. Baker, Bookseller, Stationer and Photographer was offering to provide a dozen carte-de-visite portraits for 5 shillings. Baker's prices were slightly lower than those charged in the larger neighbouring towns of Eastbourne and Hastings, where the standard rate was 6 shillings for a dozen carte- de-visite portraits. Higher class establishments in Eastbourne and Hastings charged over 8 shillings for twelve cartes.

Edwin Baker did not have a monopoly in the production of photographic portraits. Hailsham had at least one other resident photographer during Baker's early photographic career. Charles Hollamby (1816-1891), a "boot & shoemaker" with a shop in Hailsham's High Street, had been taking photographic portraits on a daily basis as early as 1866 and continued to do so until around 1882.

In his photography business, portraiture provided Edwin Baker with a steady source of income, yet he was also known to have photographed buildings in and around Hailsham. An album containing Baker's photographic views of Hailsham's Baptist Chapel, the town's local brewery, and various shops and businesses around Hailsham has been preserved by Edwin Baker's descendants. There is also a family story that Edwin Baker was appointed by Queen Victoria "to photograph historical buildings, castles, underground passages etc. of Sussex" for the records of the Royal Household.

[ABOVE] A photograph of High Street, Hailsham by Edwin Isaac Baker. The light-coloured building (centre left) is Hailsham's Wesleyan Methodist Church. Opposite the Wesleyan church, on the other side of the High Street is The Grenadier Hotel with its large sign proclaiming "Harvey & Sons - Fine Ales and London Stout."  The Grenadier, which is still a Harvey's public house, stands on this site to this day.

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Susan Guhm]

Edwin's Brother and Sister Emigrates to America

Some years before Edwin Baker had taken over the bookstore in Hailsham, Edwin's brother, Caleb Jason Baker had emigrated to the U.S.A., taking his younger sister Emma with him. Caleb Baker married and in 1867, he became the father of a daughter named Margaret, but Caleb's wife died soon after giving birth. Caleb Baker moved from New York to Chicago where he set up a business manufacturing awnings and tents. In 1878, Caleb Baker, a single parent with a 10 year old child, married a widow named Eliza Roe, who had an eight year old daughter of her own. Two more daughters were born to the couple after their union.


Edwin Baker's Family in Hailsham

Back in England, Edwin Isaac Baker continued to run his bookselling business and take photographic portraits. At the time of the 1881 Census, Edwin Baker was residing at his premises in Hailsham's High Street with his wife Mary and six of his surviving children. His father, Isaac Baker had been widowed when Sarah Baker died on 24th January 1881. When the 1881 Census was taken, Isaac Baker was working as a general dealer and living at Bellbanks in Hailsham with his married daughter Ruth and her husband George Colwell, a warehouseman. On 5th September 1882, Isaac Baker died at the age of 73. Following the 1881 Census, Edwin Baker had two more additions to his family. A daughter, Nellie Baker, was born in 1882 and a son, named George Joseph Baker, was born in 1884.

On 13th February 1887, Mrs Mary Baker, Edwin's wife, died at the age of 43. Edwin Baker's 13 year old daughter Margaret died the same year. During the course of her marriage, Mary had given birth to eleven children but only seven reached adulthood. By 1891, Edwin Baker was still working as a "Bookseller, Stationer & Photographer". Charles Hollamby, Edwin Baker's main rival in the production of photographic likenesses, appears to have given up photography in the early 1880s and, at the end of 1891, the old shoemaker died at the age of 74.

In 1891, Edwin Baker was a widower bringing up a large family ranging in age from twenty-five to seven years of age. The eldest surviving son Ernest Baker emigrated to South Africa in the 1890s and became Minister of Cape Town Baptist Church. Later, in 1894, Ernest Baker became editor of the the South African Baptist magazine.

[ABOVE] Edwin Isaac Baker in America. This photograph of Edwin Isaac Baker was taken after Baker had emigrated to the United States in 1896.

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Susan Guhm]



Edwin Baker Emigrates to the United States

In the United States, Edwin's brother Caleb Baker had built up a successful business in Chicago, manufacturing tents and camping furniture. Edwin Baker decided to join his brother Caleb in Chicago and on 12th December 1896 with four of his children - Ruth, aged 26, Alice, aged 16, Nellie, aged 14. and 12 year old George - he emigrated to the United States. Edwin Baker and his children joined Caleb Baker and his family in Chicago and the two brothers worked together in the tarpaulin and tent making business. Edwin Baker later moved on to Kansas City, where he died in 1912.


Herbert John Unwin - Edwin Baker's Successor in Hailsham

Edwin Isaac Baker's business was sold to Herbert John Unwin  (born 1873, Folkestone, Kent). Unwin continued all the main branches of Baker's former business. An advertisement in the 1898 edition of The Hailsham Almanac and Directory reads :

H. J. Unwin ( Late E .I. Baker) - Bookseller, Stationer, Librarian,


The Library, High Street, Hailsham


Herbert J. Unwin is also listed as a photographer in Hailsham in the 1899 edition of Kelly's Directory of Sussex, but when the 1901 Census was taken he is recorded as a "Photographer", aged 27 in Tupsley, Herefordshire.


Examples of the Photographic Work of Edwin Isaac Baker of Hailsham - 1868 to 1896

[ABOVE] Edwin Isaac Baker's trade plate as it appears on the back of one his early cartes-de-visite portraits (c1869). Edwin Isaac Baker established a photographic portrait studio at his bookshop around 1868.

[ABOVE] A early carte-de-visite  portrait of a young woman by Edwin Isaac Baker of High Street, Hailsham (c1869). The trade plate printed on the reverse of the carte is illustrated on the left.

[ABOVE] Carte-de-visite portrait of a 17 year old girl by Edwin Isaac Baker of Hailsham (c1883). The subject of the photograph was recently identified by Bill Rayner as Bessie Vine Bishop (1866-1939).

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young man by Edwin Isaac Baker, Photographer, Bookseller, Stationer and Librarian of High Street, Hailsham (c1890). [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young child by Edwin Isaac Baker, Photographer, Bookseller, Stationer and Librarian of High Street, Hailsham (c1892). [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young man by Edwin Isaac Baker, Photographer, Bookseller, Stationer and Librarian of High Street, Hailsham (c1890).

Cabinet Card and Memorial Cards by Edwin Isaac Baker of Hailsham


[ABOVE] A cabinet portrait of a married couple by Edwin I. Baker of High Street, Hailsham (1886) [ABOVE] The trade plate of  Edwin I. Baker, Landscape, Group & Portrait Photographer, of High Street, Hailsham (1886)

Memorial Cards by Edwin Isaac Baker of Hailsham

[ABOVE] A Memorial Card marking the death of Thomas Hollebone junior (1824-1868). The inscription below the photographic portrait reads: "In Affectionate Remembrance of Thomas Hollebone, Jun. of Hailsham who died November 1868, aged 43". Thomas Hollebone junior was the son of Thomas Hollebone (c1788-1872), Tailor and Postmaster of Hailsham. For a period of time, Thomas Hollebone junior also worked as a 'Tailor & Postmaster', but by 1861 he was employed as an 'Auctioneers Clerk'. In 1848, Thomas Hollebone junior had married Elizabeth Wall (born c1827, Hoddenham, Bucks.). Two children were produced from this union - a son named Calvin Hollebone (born 1848) and a daughter, Caroline (born 1851). Mrs Elizabeth Hollebone, Thomas Hollebone junior's wife, died in 1852. ABOVE] A Memorial Card commemorating some leading Baptist ministers in Sussex. In the third row from the top, second from left, is a portrait of Revd. John Grace (1800-1865), a minister of the Baptist Tabernacle in West Street, Brighton, from 1847 to 1865. Isaac Baker, the father of photographer Edwin Isaac Baker, was Deacon of the Hailsham Baptist Chapel. Susan Guhm, the great grand-daughter of Edwin Isaac Baker, inherited two photograph albums which had been compiled by her ancestor. Amongst the 500  photographs in the Edwin Baker archive are several which feature a montage of portraits like the one illustrated above. One of Edwin Baker's photographs includes a collection of 115 individual portraits on a single print. Another photograph includes 77 individual portraits.


Portrait of Edwin Isaac Baker and other family photographs, courtesy of Susan Guhm, a great grand-daughter of E. I. Baker. Susan Guhm has also provided information on Edwin Baker's Family History. Thank you Susan. I am grateful to Bill Rayner of Tibbermore, near Perth, Scotland, for identifying the subject of the carte-de-visite portrait of the 17 year old girl reproduced at top right under the heading "Examples of the Photographic Work of Edwin Isaac Baker of Hailsham". The teenage girl in question was Bessie Vine Bishop, who was born in Minster, Isle of Sheppey, Kent during the first half of 1866. On 3rd May, 1888, at the Lower Dicker Baptist Chapel In the district of Hailsham, Bessie Vine Bishop married James Baker (born 1866, Hellingly, Sussex) a grocer and draper. Mrs Bessie Vine Baker is Bill Rayner's maternal great grandmother.

Click here to go to A History of Professional Photography in Hailsham

Click here to go to Directory of Photographic Studios in Hailsham 1860-1910

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 Website Link -  The Photos of Edwin Isaac Baker

Susan Guhm, a great grand-daughter of Edwin Isaac Baker, has created a splendid website featuring a collection of photographs by Edwin Isaac Baker. Susan's grandfather was George Joseph Baker (1884-1970), Edwin Baker's youngest son, and she has inherited two albums containing a number of photographs taken by Edwin Isaac Baker. Many of Edwin Baker's photographs can be viewed on Susan's website. Also featured on Susan's website are pictures of the interior of Edwin Baker's Bookshop and Stationery business in Hailsham, portraits of members of Edwin Baker's family, and portraits of Edwin Baker's family and friends in Hailsham and America. The two portraits of Edwin Isaac Baker on this webpage are taken from Susan Guhm's website. The Photos of Edwin Isaac Baker website also contains information about Edwin Baker's Family History.

[ABOVE] Edwin Isaac Baker with his youngest son George Joseph Baker, who was born in 1884.

 Click here to view Susan Guhm's website The Photos of Edwin Isaac Baker


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