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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 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 ( born1847) 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, aged 10, 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, aged 18, was employed as a twine packer.


A portrait of Edwin Isaac Baker, Hailsham's leading photographer for over 25 years, from 1869 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 ]

Marriage and Family

Around 1864, Edwin Baker married Mary Hunnisett ( born  1843 Hellingly ). Their first child Amy Sarah was born in 1865 and a son, Edwin William 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, died at the age of 7.

Edwin Baker - Photographer

An advertisement in the Hailsham Almanac of 1869, provides evidence that Edwin Baker had established a photographic portrait studio in 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  Baker's with a steady source of income, yet he was 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 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 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 married and in 1867, he became the father of a daughter named Margaret, but Caleb's wife died soon after giving birth. Caleb 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. Edwin Baker had two more additions to his family after the 1881 Census was taken -  a daughter Nellie, who was born in 1882 and a son George Joseph Baker who was born in 1884.

On 13th February 1887, Edwin Baker's wife Mary died at the age of 43. Edwin'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 would reach 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 1880s and, at the end of 1891, the old shoemaker died at the age of 74.

In 1891,Edwin was a widower bringing up a large family ranging in age from twenty-five to seven years of age. The eldest surviving son Ernest 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 Edwin 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 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 1874, 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 Sussex Directory, 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

Edwin Isaac Baker's trade plate as it appears on the back of his early cartes-de-visite. (c1869) A early carte-de-visite  portrait of a young woman by Edwin Isaac Baker of High Street, Hailsham. (c1869)  Portrait of a young woman by Edwin Isaac Baker of Hailsham. Carte-de-visite. (c1878)


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS : Portrait of Edwin Isaac Baker, courtesy of Susan Guhm, a great grand-daughter of E. I. Baker. Susan Guhm has also provided information on Edwin Baker's Family History.T hank you Susan.

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