have traced my roots back to Cyrus Hamlin of Maine (founder of Robert
College [R.C.] Istanbul, now Boğaziçi University) through
my father, Theodore Baker - childhood
photos. His mother was related to the Hamlins. I have been in touch
with several of the University’s officials who have confirmed this. Cyrus
Hamlin’s wife Harriet, and 3 children are all buried in the Protestant
cemetery of Feriköy in Istanbul, and the listing is viewable on-line.
Cyrus Hamlin’s first wife, Mrs Henrietta Hamlin, also a missionary, was quite a woman in her own way. Cyrus always stated he “married up!” She was a prolific writer and a charming beauty
according to everything I have ever read about her. The history of Robert College is extremely well documented. It is named after a rich industrialist who financed Cyrus Hamlin after a chance meeting when Cyrus was selling bread to Florence Nightingale who was running a hospital for the wounded of the Crimean War. Cyrus was an amazing man, of high intellect and my great-great-grandfather. I was named after Cyrus’s grandson, Robert Anderson who’s mother was Abbie Hamlin and father was Charles Anderson also an esteemed professor and vice-president of Robert College. My Great-grandmother Abbie Hamlin Anderson (Cyrus’s fourth daughter by
first wife) is buried next to her mother. Since I knew my grandmother’s
maiden name was Anderson, I asked about that name and RC replied back
with the URL
of the newly posted school history about one of its early professor named
Charles Anderson (service between 1869-1918) who married one of Cyrus
Hamlin’s daughters - as mentioned in this account of the history of this institution. After I got a hold of a few death certificates, the
relationship was confirmed. Abbie and Charles had five children in America
- Rodger, Catherine, Robert, Sarah and one unknown (maybe stillborn?)
before bringing them back to R.C. to teach.
Several wings of the Hamlin family and I are in touch. One worked for CNN television network a couple of years ago and she knew a friend of mine who also had heart surgery. Sometimes it is a small world!
Notes: 1- More on the life and achievements
of Cyrus Hamlin here,
with an early photo and further information on the Bebek seminary here
and information on the Cyrus
Hamlin Collection, 1798-1984, held in a library in Maine, USA.
2- A recent book makes reference to Henrietta and Harriet Hamlin, ‘A Looking-Glass for Ladies: American Protestant Women and the Orient in the Nineteenth Century - Lisa Joy Pruitt, 2005’ with information in this case obtained from the primary source of missionary memoirs.
3- I used to be able to do a search for Charles Anderson on the BU library website and the query would return a book he had written in honor of the memory of his wife Abbie Hamlin. I can’t seem to find it again and the url link I had to it is dead. I would love to read that book one day.
The University’s officials had no record of my Baker side, although they
do have some record of my father’s mother. She seems to have been the
secretary to her father (Anderson, a well loved professor at R.C.) and
gave birth to my father about the same time as they built Anderson Hall (1913), dedicated to my great-grandfather.
My father has a British birth certificate (dated 1913) showing his place
of birth as Bebek- which is right near RC.
My grandfather’s name is George Noel Baker, born 1884 in Turkey and he
lived till 1962. He might have attended RC from 1902 to 04, the schools
records are incomplete. I have been looking for his father, Harry Baker
and wife Mary Jouie both of which were born in England. I heard he worked
for the British Embassy and was assassinated in 1918 or 19, but these
are unconfirmed. The trail ends there. With the names of George, Harry
and Mary being so common along with Baker, it became clear to me that
it was like searching for a needle in a haystack. My father never really talked about the family very much as he left Turkey in 1919 at the age of 6 during some awfully traumatic times.
When I was a young boy (4-10), over 50 years ago, we would visit my father’s
relatives in California every 3 or 4 years. It was very exciting to me
as it was a 4 day drive with the whole family loaded in to one car. We
live in Ohio, near Toledo and the Great Lakes. They lived clear across
country on the West Coast. The best part of the trip was when they (my
father and his sister, my grandmother- Catherine Anderson Baker, my father’s
Aunt Sarah (called Lolo) Anderson and my father’s uncle Rodger Anderson
- group photo) would all get together
and spend the day with our family. They all spoke French and Turkish for
me, which as a little boy amazed me. The women used to spend the whole
day in the kitchen talking about Turkey, Istanbul, the people, R.C. and
the making of the food. I just adored them and I’m sure they felt the
same about me as I looked and acted very much like my father as a young
boy. It was during these times I started to hear the stories that gave
me the clues to search for my Baker family today. To my knowledge, other
than my family headed by George and his father Harry, we have no other
Baker relatives. My mother’s side is well documented, my father’s grandmother’s
(the Andersons and the Hamlins) are also very well documented. The Bakers
stop at George and Harry. That is my problem. I have an old photo of a couple, clearly from an ancient time, but no writing on the back, adding to the frustrating mysteries.
Recently on the Internet I came across Cecil
Edward, nephew to James Baker (not necessarily a relative even if
the business was based in Istanbul) who was the son of George Baker the
gardener of the Ottoman Sultan - archive views of Palace gardens. Well, is seems that the son started a
Persian carpet business [possibly one of the companies that later
amalgamated to form the giant, Oriental
Carpet Manufacturers]. Several things started my memory. I remembered
my father talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars (in 1930 dollars)
in Persian carpets, his father’s personal collection, were destroyed when
their home burned down in a grass fire. Also remember something about
one of my relatives loved lawns. My grandfather, George, was said to have
many brothers and the family was wealthy (my grandfather, although he
was believed to have a PhD in Maths- never worked). He seemed to have carried a lot of treasury to America when he left that enabled him to never work a day in his life although the last years of his life he was penniless. I also have a gold
writing instrument that was given to me when I turned 21, which was
given to him by his father when he turned 21 and (here is where it gets
fuzzy) supposedly given to my relatives by the Turkish Sultan or the Russian
Czar. I remember my father stating that this instrument was given to his
father on his 21st by his father. By tradition it goes to the oldest son
down the generations. That’s why I think both Harry and George Noel were
the oldest sons, descendants of the Sultan’s gardener. I took this instrument
to an art professor years ago and he thought it to be by Faberge.
He said it was made for a Russian Czar, not for a Turk. He seemed very
positive about this. So now my father’s story make sense- It was made
for the Czar, given to the Sultan who then gave it to George Baker his
gardener and somehow to my great-grandfather Harry Baker, who gave it
to his son, George Noel Baker, my grandfather.
Notes: 1- At present there is no
evidence to tie in this family with a prominent Baker family of Istanbul
who established a major department store on the fashionable high street
of Pera in 1854, with later branches in the nearby quarters of Yüksekkaldırım
and Sirkeci. The founder was a George Baker who was bestowed by the Sultan
Abdülhamit II, the right to sell goods to the palace. On the death
of George Baker on 21-Feb-1905, aged 93, (buried at Haydarpaşa cemetery
- postcard view & listing
- however this age of death given in an auction booklet, for an illustrated
catalogue of goods of the Baker shop, doesn’t tally with his birth date
stated on his head-stone), his sons took over the running of the business
till the 1940s. His head stone records that he was the head gardener at
the British Embassy and was born at Totteridge, Herts. 1822, came to Constantinople
…1847. In the book ‘The bank, the money lenders, the money changers, the
usurers and the jewellers of Pera and Beyoğlu - Behzat Üskiden
- Creative publishing 2000’ - segment,
the illustration clearly shows the shopfront sign as G&A Baker ltd.
(the photo is part of a newspaper advertisement, published 15-Jan-1931),
presumably the first names of the sons. The problem of a link is that
even if one of these was a George, this would not tie in with the fact
that his father wasn’t Harry Baker.
2- Another Turkish reference book, the Istanbul
Encyclopedia, gives more detailed information on the development of
the Baker shops, answering some of the above questions - probable view of one of these shops.
3- Recently through a Turkish
web site new information has come to light, revealing the James was
the younger brother of George Baker and the story of the development of
his retail business in Istanbul. Görüş Magazine, no 56,
Sept-Oct 2003 - Istanbul tekstil tuccarının profili [profile
of the Istanbul textile merchant] - Lorans Tanatar Baruh.
...George Percival Baker32 was also an important name in the textile
sector of Istanbul at the time [1880-1912]. In terms of export value of
its business, it came second only to carpets.
32- George Percival Baker’s father George arrives in Istanbul in 1847,
having newly been appointed as a gardener in charge of landscaping the
gardens of the summer embassy at Therapia. When the embassy burns down
in 1884, and is subsequently re-built, he is put in charge of re-establishing
the gardens there. He cultivates new friendships with the merchants and
artisans brought from England, involved in the re-construction and re-decorations
of the building. Amongst these new arrivals, Hayden, Haywood, Burness
and Duff permanently settle in Istanbul. The mid 1850s is a time of increased
importation from England. With these new commercial conditions and contacts,
George Baker receives a consignment of English linen cloth from his younger
brother James and sells this off with ease to the employees of the Embassy,
and asks for a new consignment. In 1857, he obtains a store in Pera for
the goods he has imported. In 1860 he becomes partners with Hayden and
starts to import in a more organised way goods that have been requested,
with James Baker being their representative and conveyor in England. In
August 1862 George Baker quits being a gardener and opens a shop near
the Galata tower, his turnover increases and begins to invest in new projects.
In 1869 the Baker-Hayden partnership ends and both parties continue to
trade independantly. In 1870 G. Baker opens a new shop in Pera, and this
forms the basis of the establishment that in time is known as Baker and
Edwards, Edwards and sons and G. & A. Bakers Ltd. (Information obtained
from ‘East to west - textiles from G.P. and J. Baker’, Victoria
and Albert museum
in London, 9 May-14 Oct 1984, and the exhibition
catalogue issued in 1984, p. 18-20).
Lorans Tanatar Baruh
Technical director of the Ottoman
bank archives research centre
Doctorate student at the Boğaziçi university
Taken for a segment of a dissertation presented in 1993 - ‘At the turn
of the century, textile dealers in an international port city, Istanbul’,
originally published in Boğaziçi Journal, review of social,
economic and administrative studies, 1997, v.11, no.1-2., p. 33-52.
4- Furthermore another Turkish web
site gives a the following information: ‘Towards the end of the 19th
century, in addition to the mentioned 3 carpet businesses, 3 new English
carpet firms by the names of G.P. and J. Baker, Sidney La Fontaine and
Sykes Co. are established raising the total number of traders to 6.’ This
shows that George was a partner with his brother James for the carpet
side of his business.
Recently I went through my father’s (died 1988) old steamer trunk. I found
very little. My father’s citizenship application
and a post card (dated 1940) from his aunt, Sarah Anderson, who returned
to visit some friend at the girls school in Istanbul where she was a teacher.
The post card is a photo of the Bosphorus castle, Rumeli Hisar
taken about that time. There is so little documentation - my grandfather
burned most of it in a fit of rage according to my father’s only sister’s
(passed away in 1992) husband, who is still alive and has very little
memory left. I do have copy my father’s birth certificate with its number,
but the British Consulate in Istanbul never replied to my inquirers about
My father, a physicist, was working in New York City when he met my mother.
They move to Hartford, Ct and then to Toledo, OH in the late-40s. My mother
died in 1981 and he died in 1988. My older sister insists that someone
contacted him during the early-50s about the Baker family tree. She said
that my father had it laid out on our kitchen table. She said he filled
out the information and sent it back- where she doesn’t know. However,
I’m not sure my father and his sister knew very much about the family.
I was told by my father’s sister’s husband that he thought my father’s
father (George Noel Baker, son of Harry) had a lot of brothers. If that
is true there are people somewhere who still have knowledge of the Baker
family of Istanbul. I have always heard that my family had no other close
Baker relatives in America. My sister is trying to contact a long lost
great-uncle’s son who was supposed to have lived in Washington state here in
the States. He was from the Hamlin-Anderson side and knew the Baker side
very well. The problem is his name - Roger Anderson, again an extremely
common name over here. He was reported to have purchased a number of items
from my grandfather (George Noel Baker) to help him raise cash during
the stock market fall of 1929.
According to what my grandmother, (my father’s mother - married to George
Noel Baker, a Anderson whose mother was a daughter of Cyrus Hamlin) told
me when I was a boy, my family history is supposed to be detailed in the
Lady’s Book and Ladies’ American Magazine” also referred to as “Godey’s
Magazine”. Problem is I’m not sure she meant the Baker or Hamlin family.
However I was recently (2005) informed by the New York public library
that the humanities and social science library’s general research division
holds most of the issues from 1830-1898. My sister has always assumed
that the history in the magazine was written about about the Baker side,
but since learning of the prominace of the Hamlin side, she is not so
sure who it is. I have no clue about what volume it might be in and I
was told they won’t let something that old out of the library.
While I know very little of the daily life of my grandfather, it seems
the playing of chess and bridge was a popular diversion. My father was
a very good chess and bridge player. He taught me so well that I was able
to beat the local university chess champion at the age of 10. When I was
of college age, I asked him if he played. He said “Of course, everybody
played when I was in Turkey, but I rarely play now because the players
are so poor.”
Note: 1- A researcher in this subject
and the chairman of the International
Playing-Card Society, Thierry Depaulis (academic article), reading this online report,
realised that Robert’s grandfather was perhaps the man he sought to identify
and, in subsequent communication, Robert Baker was able to confirm on
several points that indeed the unknown San Francisco player could well
be George Noel Baker. Thierry Depaulis was contacted in 2006 by an Australian
correspondent (who is a bridge player and a bridge book collector) who
told him he had found a further testimony in a press clipping from a Californian
newspaper called The Redwood Journal (published in Ukiah, Cal.). It was
in the Bridge column, “Contract Highlights”, edited by Z.V. Smith. In
the Friday, February 28, 1936 issue, Smith had this:
An old San Francisco player, who, though unknown in tournaments play,
is one of the best in the country, says: “I was born in Constantinople
of English parents. My family had long been engaged in the rug trade.
I was told that the card game we played had been the popular diversion
in Turkey from time immemorial. It was called ‘berich’ (pronounced bay-reech,
both syllables unaccented). When the dealer could not make a trump he
merely said: ‘Berich!’” Some of the very best players in Europe are Turks,
though of course, they have to learn conventional bidding.”
Could this be my grandfather, George Noel Baker, who would have been 52
at the time and who had settled in settled in Southern California near
Altadena and later Sacramento?
2- Thierry Depaulis, elaborated on the Levant link of this
game, with this history: “The main evidence comes from a small booklet
called ‘Biritch or Russian Whist’, written by one John Collinson and printed
in London in 1886. A research showed that this man had been to Turkey
in 1880-84 and that it was in Constantinople that he learned the game.
This Biritch is Bridge in its earlier form that spread to Western Europe
from ca. 1890 and became quite fashionable in Paris and London (and also
in New York in the mid-1890s). I have published an article on this booklet
with my Dutch friend Jac Fuchs (“First Steps of Bridge in the West: Collinson’s
‘Biritch’”, in: The Playing-Card, vol. 32, no. 2, Sept.-Oct. 2003, pp.
67-76). As early as the late 19th century the first bridge manuals (starting
from 1895) had a “historical” that pointed out to “Turkey” as a place
of origin for the game. As time passed more and more testimonies - some
of them very detailed - were published here and there. In my 1997 book
(Histoire du Bridge) I had a full chapter on this.”
Then in late December 2005, events developed fast. At the instigation
of the editor of this site, who doing an internet search on G.P. &
J. Baker, the firm name revealed in the history of carpet businesses in
Turkey above, brought up this same named firm (examples of their textiles).
An enquiry e-mail on the roots of the company came back with a whole article
on the history of the company going back to George Baker, proving this
was indeed its continuation, viewable in pdf
Note: Further information on the history of the G.P. & J. Baker firm is available at these sources, though most appear to be purely technical pattern books etc. however the ‘private’ records at the National Archives could yield more, to be checked.
This one document, a photocopy of an article written at the time of an
exhibition in 1984, held at the Victoria & Albert museum, revealed
a whole lot of information. As revealed above in alternative sources,
George Baker did indeed go to Constantinople as a gardener, but soon
developed business contacts in his small circle at the time, later marrying
a Maria Butler, in 1853, who had also gone to that city as a governess,
with whom he had 9 children. Two of sons were named George Pecival and
the other Jim, hence the initials of the company they were to set up later.
Aged 18 G.P. was sent to London, on the death of his uncle James, to take
his place as agent to the Constantinople firm. For G.P.’s 21th birthday
present, his father gave him leave and money to travel, and he decided
to go East to Persia. This was fortunate as both he and his father who
travelled with him, realise the potential of exporting carpets to England,
but through G.P.’s love of mountaineering, he acquired a love of alpine
plants. By 1886, George provided the capital for his two sons to start
their own businesses, that included importing oriental carpets, printing
textiles and acting as buying and selling agents for Eastern firms. G.P.
& J. Baker grew, going public in 1907 and when O.C.M. (Oriental
Carpet Manufacturers) was established in 1908, Jim Baker looked after
Baker’s interest in this new amalgamation of Levantine carpet firms. His
son Ronald joined Baker’s and after G.P.’s retirement in 1946, was responsible
for buying historic textiles and for developing the design studio. Michael
Cutcliffe, G.P.’s grandson (died 6th January 2013), the only remaining member of the family of
the Baker’s, was at the time of the article, one of the export sale directors.
Despite the firm being bought out in 1964, the name was retained as well
as the tradition of drawing inspiration for the huge inventory of fabrics
and designs collected by the early Bakers, that also formed the basis
of the From East to West exhibition.
So next stop in the enquiry was the Victoria
& Albert museum in London archives if they could help, as there
was still no conclusive proof that I was related to this family. After
examining the files for the ‘From east to west: textiles from G.P. &
J. Baker’ (9 May - 14 October 1984) exhibition, the records and archives
assistant related this information: there is a photocopy of a publication
‘The George Baker Family, 1822-1905’ by Ruby K. Gray in 1965, which certainly
mentions Harry and a prologue, perhaps for the catalogue about the company.
So this proved it, that I am indeed related to this illustrious family.
So Harry was Senior George Percival’s second born son, who named his son
George Noel. Harry died in 1906, leaving his widow a trust administered
by Harry’s younger brother Arthur. When George Noel left Turkey in 1919
a wealthy man because of his family’s wealth, he came to America and never
really worked at all. The choice of America as a destination, I suppose
was simply because his wife was an American. Of course, he married well-
the daughter of a well known and liked professor at R.C. and granddaughter
of its famous founder. The cache of the Hamlin, Anderson, Bakers and R.C.
meant very little to early 20th century America. When all the riches that
he could carry to America were either lost in a fire or in the Stock market
in the Crash of ’29, he turned in to a bitter old man and separated himself
from family and friend, having only a faithful old wife (the poor dear)
to listen to his rants and to endure his rage. My Uncle Tom Holland, (a
robust, athletic husband of George Noel’s daughter Nina) told me personally
that everyone was afraid of him, except Roger Hamlin Anderson (Charles
and Abbie Hamlin Anderson’s son).
So with my link with this family now confirmed, the link to Cecil Edwards
mentioned above is also proved. There is further information on the role
played by Cecil Edwards to expand the Baker carpet business operations
in Persia in this web
site, where it states, ‘following the death of Charles Edwards,
after a short while, Cecil Edwards, keen to pursue the activities of the
Baker’s Company cleared the path for its continued functioning and soon
after his return to Iran in 1911, he expanded the scope of the activities
of the company by establishing three main and fully operative branches
in the cities of Kerman, Arak and Hamadan’. The next task would be
to tie in this union (is this Edwards from the same family who lived in
the Levant for generations?). My understanding is the the senior George
was his uncle, so I assume it meant George had a sister who married this
Further information from V.&A. did confirmation of this link and I
found things that I had forgot, because I heard it long ago but did not
understand. Harry, was born in 1857 son of George Baker and Maria
Butler. Harry married Mary Jew and their children were Winifred and George
Noel Baker. George married Katherine [should be spelt with a C]
Anderson and their children were ...[inaccurate information].
Harry died in 1906 aged about 48 of cholera.
The name Jew was kind of a family joke about us having Jewish blood. It
is real foggy in my mind, but, it is possible that Jew was changed to
Jouie, for reasons of the family’s fear of anti-semitism. The name Nina
Jew and a vague reference to a Spanish Princess, were just one of the
bits and pieces that all of us remembered the family talking about when
we were young, but that is all I know. It is interesting to note that
Harry, the eldest brother, died within a year after his father, George
Baker 1822-1905; the impact on the family must have been great.
Note: As this surname is not a common one, there is a possibility that the family with this surname were long-term residents of Constantinople as from the article ‘The history of the British Chamber of Commerce of Turkey - Desmond Whittall, 1978’ we see the second secretary of the Chamber was a William Jew (term 1887-1889) possibly the father of Mary, who knows?
There was other information contained in the V&A files, some of it
is very detailed, however not very much about Harry and much of it wrong
as we know. Harry had a daughter, Winifred, who married Allan Ramsey who
made a fortune in tobacco and they had two children Margaret and Allan.
When Winifred’s husband Allan died, she married an Italian Count Dari.
These records correctly stated that my grandfather George Noel married
Katherine (sp. error) Anderson, but only mentions their two kids- Katherine
and George and not my father Theodore and his sister Nina (born 2 years
later 1915), an obvious error as was “they divorced and he (George Noel)
was never seen again”. Actually, it is very well documented that they
didn’t leave Turkey till 1919. George Noel and Catherine remained married
until their death in the mid-1960s. This misstatement by Gray is disappointing,
because they talk about a large house that George senior built in Bebek,
just below the American school (R.C.) and sent some of his sons to this
institution; my father was born in Bebek, presumably in this house. The
records don’t state who this Ruby K. Gray is. The forward says she wrote
the book for a Arthur Leavitt, who was the son-in-law to Arthur Baker,
one of the younger sons of George senior. “The George Baker Family” 1822-1905
by Ruby K. Gray, The Willows, 1965, is written on the title page, and
on the back page this information is given, ‘printed by Holloway Brothers,
Westbury, Wiltshire, England’. There is much detail about the family and
the business, but scant little about Harry and half of it I know to be
wrong. It is more like a booklet (46 pages) described by V&A as a
prologue to an exhibition.
However, the book states, “Arthur Baker had 5 children, Elsie, Dollie,
Warden, Ruby and May.” I assume therefore that Ruby’s married name is
Gray and the May she referred to in the book who helped her with her notes
and who died during the writing of the book was her sister. Since Arthur
Leavitt was Arthur Baker’s son-in-law, it is reasonable to assume that
one of the Ruby’s sisters married a Leavitt. However, I can’t understand
why she wouldn’t have introduced herself in the book. Ruby Gray tended
to talk mostly about G.P.B. and Arthur her father. It seems she knew very
little about the rest of the family and what she knew about Harry, some
of it at least was wrong.
There was other information of value within the V&A files, however
I get the feeling what was provided, despite being considerable, is the
tip of the iceberg, with many citations to ‘letter-books’. Gray had some
well cited narratives that were amazing to me. There are no photos and
the family tree is discussed. It mentioned that George Percival become
“depressed” about the business and turned it over to James and Cecil Edwards.
G.P. went on to other businesses. Many business associates of the Baker
family are mentioned- Hayden, first business partner started near by Galata
Tower, later in Pera, dissolved
in 1869. Later joined with Heywood and Nixon in a flour mill. The Butlers,
Percival and Pulman families were mentioned. Henry Pulman built the summer
embassy at Therapia, which burnt down and was rebuilt. Also did the
Embassy Chapel in Constantinople. A lot about the Edwards. M. Cutcliffe
was mentioned as one of children of Violet (G.P.B.’s daughter married
to Ernest Cutcliffe). Ronald Baker is also mentioned.
Also in Gray’s book are the following interesting details: there is a
reference to an Alexander Baltazzi who won “the Derby in 1876 with a horse
called Kisber”. There is a note about Madame Baltazzi, Eliza Baltazzi.
George Senior’s wife Maria Butler apparently worked for the Baltazzis
and they signed the register of her marriage as witnesses. It was solemnized
at the Chapel of the British Embassy Constantinople on the 25th – 26th
day of May, 1853. There is a short mention of “Seager in Smyrna” as an
agent of OCM in 1908. Also, family house at [Rumeli] Hissar built
in 1880 at 1,800 pounds, “high upon the hill, under the American school
- Hamlin Hall”, and the house at “Rue Dermen” built 1882 for 2,000 pounds.
There is a satellite view where the
Rumeli Hisar and Hamlin Hall is clearly visible. It appears that there
is not a lot of room there for more than a few houses. Seeing the postcard
showing the Hissar, my grandmother (Catherine Anderson Baker) “Granny
B.”, mentioned what a familiar site it was to her. So for that to be true
for a 5 or 6 year old, she must have lived very close. I also heard the
area was destroyed by fire. It would be nice to find the house if it is
still standing, as Gray mentioned all the family used to gather there
at Christmas. It was also mentioned that many of the business partners
lived close by. That in itself could be a research project.
Finally the book provides details that takes the family history back a
generation before their move to Constantinople in the first pages
viewable here. That is as far as it goes. Too bad, because the family
rumour is that we are related to Sir Isaac Newton. However, my research
shows this to be unlikely.
To view a section of the text (11 pages) of the “prologue to the exhibition”
click here and to view the 4 page
short story of “Turkish exports”, click here
( both presumably prepared by the officials at the V&A).
It seems to me that somewhere I read that a coal mine was lost to the
government in 1917, just after it was purchased - I just can’t remember
where I read it.
Note: Possibly in this web site,
under the ‘London registers’,
where the FO782/12 Foreign Office Constantinople correspondence registers
1913-21 state ‘George Baker & Son purchases coal mine in Zonguldak
[archive postcard views] on 23 May 1914 from a Montenegrin’...the outbreak of war would mean all
British and French assets would be confiscated, and if the confiscation
was delayed till 1917, it suggests the Baker family were somewhat favoured
by the authorities.
One interesting note; although George Senior had a lot of sons, some had
no children, some had all girls and many had all sons that died young.
There is a chance, I am the last of “The Baker Boys!”
To help visualize the full family tree that is thus revealed click here:
Then in March 2006 contact was made through this posting, with descendants
of George Percival Baker, living in England. Information exchange has
started with Belinda Levitan, great-granddaughter of George Percival Baker.
Violet was the eldest of his 7 children and she married Ernest Cutcliffe
with whom she had 3 children, Nancy, Richard and Michael. Belinda is the
daugher of Nancy. Nancy is now nearly 91 (2006) but knew G.P.B. well and visited
Turkey for her 21st birthday. She knew Ruby Gray and also has photos
of places in Turkey from when she was there and also family “portraits”. In addition the family has a copy of a book published by G.P. Baker “Mountaineering Memories of the Past”, printed the year of his death in 1951. Ms Levitan also noted the G.P. Baker was the joint author of a book whose subject matter was clearly an extension of his professional life: ‘Calico painting and printing in the the East Indies in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries - George Percival Baker, Henri Clouzot
Published by E. Arnold, 1921, 78 pages’. Ms Levitan has also pointed out mistakes in Ruby Gray’s account, such
as ‘first son of Robert Percival Baker was Martin not Robin’ (R.B.P. known
as Robin, first son John dies 1942, his second son was Martin, whose son
is also John). Further information from this contributor:
Children of George Baker:
George Percival 1856
Frederick William 1862
Note: Census returns give details of occupation of place of residence for George Percival Baker (1901 census) and Fred Baker (1891 census).
Michael Cutcliffe is the son of Violet Baker (Cutcliffe) daughter of G.P.B.
He is therefore my uncle and was very involved in the identification of
the exhibits of the East to West exhibition held at the V&A Museum
in 1984, and I have a copy of the exhibition
catalogue that includes much family and business information [the
Home and Garden magazine article published at the time, and viewable above,
is somewhat a summarized version of this].
Cecil Edwards wrote a book called “The Oriental Carpet” which is a collector’s
item and still considered to be one of the foremost reference books. He
was son of Louisa.
My mother, Nancy, was brought up in England and only went to Turkey for
her 21st birthday present (1936) - so she never knew Harry. She has a
recollection that her mother told her that he caught the cholera from
a child in the bazaar while looking at carpets - he turned over a pile
of carpets and found a sick child huddled among them.
The story about the ‘House of Snakes’ concurs somewhat with Mum’s story:
There was a time when if the Sultan expressed appreciation for something
the owner of the item would say “it is yours”. The Sultan visited the
house and told the owner how much he liked it. “It is indeed a beautiful
house” said the owner “but it has one big problem ... it is infested with
snakes and we cannot get rid of them”. The Sultan no longer found the
Mum stayed with the Binns family (Aunt Louie - Louisa) and has photos
of them all swimming in the Bosphorus from the steps in front of the house
- also a photo of Cuthbert Binns (cousin) as a young man. When she went
to stay they had been living there for a long time already.
On another family branch, whom I am not in touch with, the descendents
from Fred Baker that I know of are through his daughter Winifred: 3 daughters,
Ursula (deceased), Hilary and Valerie who married Philip
Goodhart (Conservative MP for Beckenham, England, for many years)
and they have 7 children - view archive photos of this branch of the family.
Notes: 1- Belinda Levitan introduced
to Robert Baker her mother’s cousin Martin Baker (son of Martin Baker
and Muriel Bamber, grandson of George Percival Baker) who was able to
provide extra information from his father’s papers, and press
cuttings that highlighted segments of the author Ruby Gray’s life.
2- The India Office of the British Library is the deposition place of some of the sketches of Ruby Gray, covering the period of her life spent in India (& Egypt?).
Returning the Robert Baker, and his impressions:
It was quite a read! Here are the highlights:
1. It appears to have different authors, mainly G.P. Baker and Victor
M. Binns. I’m not sure who compiled the many family trees - some entries
in the 1980’s.
2. For the most part it is a fairly detailed record of the various companies
that the Baker’s were apart of.
3. This passage I will type: “The Cedars”: In 1880 George Baker acquired
a plot of land on the hill overlooking the Bosphorous, above the village
of Rumeli Hisar. The stately cedar trees on the property give it its name.
Exactly one hundred years later it was expropriated by the Ministry of
Education. The second house, presumably for one of the sons, was build on a street named “Dermond”, however there seems to be no trace of this French named street, possibly taking the name of the one of the Levantine families of the past.
4. Harry went to a school in Essex named Kelveden, then Owen’s
College in Manchester. He was said to have married the daughter of
the postmaster of the English Post Office. It also stated the son went
to California and daughter married Ramsey in the tobacco trade, made a
fortune, then died and wife married an Italian.
5. There is another book by Ruby Gray (but again like her main book, her name wasn’t to be seen, and no introduction), this time dealing specifically with her immediate family, titled with her father’s name, ‘The Arthur Baker Family 1861-1959’, printed apparently after ‘The George Baker Family, 1822-1905’ that was printed 1965, as this shorter 39 page booklet has historical references as recent as 1966 (when Mrs Gray would have been 70), click here for a segment. This book goes into more detail on just this branch of the family, but is full of useful detail, such as the revelation that there was a Harry Baker house, next to the George Baker house at Rumeli Hisar.
6. There is a set of papers apparently written by Victor Binns in 1984
which details that the Baker, Seager, Binns and Edwards families all had
business relationship in Turkey. They also intermarried.
Note 1: In August 2006, a descendant
of the Seager and Binns line, Kathryn Whitaker, was able to furnish this
My grandmother lived right next to Roumeli Hissar and was married
there, I think. My mother and siblings often spoke of the college. They
were British/American and lived in Turkey for various reasons. My mother
was born in Istanbul and lived in Ismid at one point as well. There was
a house they called the ‘Fowl house’ (?name of a family). My great grandfather
was Reverend Francis H. Leslie. My great grandmother left and then returned
to Turkey after he had died (it was actually a suicide, but that is a
different story). When she returned, she became the treasurer of the mission.
Her name was Elvesta T. Leslie.
My great-great-great-great grandfather on the other side was Edward Seager.
He had a shipping business out of Poole, Dorset, England, and he offered
his ships to the service of the British to aid in the Crimean war. He
and his family went along. While in the area, Edward fell in love with
the Bosphorus and decided to start up a business. He is said to have been
the first to bring steam to the Bosphorus, having purchased a tug. He
hired out his tug to move ships in and out of shallow waters in the various
ports. On a whim, Edward decided to join the fighting in Balacalava after
dropping his son, John (1838-1907) off in Constantinople. He died on November
6, 1854 in the battle of Balaclava. His son took over the shipping business
and ended up picking the shipping company back up with the support of
many contacts. He befriended Florence Nightengale, who had been operating
a hospital for the victims of the Crimean war. He assisted her a great
deal in getting much needed supplies.
He married Evelina Constantia Pembe Binns, who was the daughter of James
Binns, a textile manufacturer of Yorkshire, Leeds, England and of Ann
Longbottom. Evelina’s middle name of Pembe came from the midwife, [probably
Turkish as this name means ‘Pink’ in that language]. James Binns was commissioned
by the Sultan to build and oversee a processing plant for Angora wool.
John Seager was said to be the first to ship Angora out of Turkey. Evelina’s
mother, Ann Longbottom Binns, was a diarist, and we have transcripts of
her diary. She describes an earthquake in Ismit [archive postcard views of the city] and describes meeting
the Sultan and being paid with a tub of gold. The tub of gold, she said,
amounted to what would have been paid in England, but was terribly inconvenient!
John and Evelina had many children:
Walter Constantine (from whom I descend), John Herbert, Winifred Amy,
Mildred Beatrice, Ethel Frances, Harold Lawrence, Evelina Julia, Olivia
Ann, and Edward James Percival.
Edward’s great grandson, Cedric Seager, wrote a story about the Seager
family. It has some inaccuracies, as most family lore does, but it is
a fascinating read.
My grandmother has returned to Turkey as of May 2006, I think, and will
likely live out her days there.
Note 2: In May 2008, a descendant
of the Wallace and Baker line, Diane Wallace, was able to furnish
extensive extra information, result of her personal family study, viewable here:
Returning the Robert Baker, and his impressions:
I rechecked my father’s birth certificate and it gives his place of birth
as Rumeli Hisar. His father (George Noel) residence is give as Rumeli
Hisar. At the same time I also came across an early
print of R.C. Shows the hill-side as bare except for Hamlin Hall,
Kennedy Lodge and the serpentine road to the Bosphorous, with no property
visible on that stretch, so who knows where exactly it was and is it still
standing? My wish list, among many, is to find out more about my great-grandfather Harry’s wife Mary (nee Jouie / Jew) who lived until 1941 and their daughter Winifred Baker whose second marriage was to the mysterious Italian Count ‘Dari’.
Notes: 1- Recently (Oct 2006) Maximilian
Hartmuth kindly photographed the
region to help pin-point this property that is in all likelihood still
2- In Nov 2006 all the passenger ship lists of immigrants to America
was made online,
allowing for searches. This revealed, that the Catherina Baker, wife of
grandfather Theoodore, made a journey from Piraeus to New York, with both
of her young children, but without her husband. It is interesting to note
that her name like that in Ruby Gray’s account has been incorrectly spelt
with a ‘K’ again. Click here to view summary and here to view copy of the ship listing itself.
3- In April 2007 the researcher Melisa Urgandokur kindly scanned the pages of a trade catalogue by the Smyrna - London based carpet concern O.C.M., a company founded by the union of mostly Levantine run carpet firms based in Turkey, and whose managers including the Bakers and their descendants continued to have a role in. The catalogue gives a good flavour of the nature of the business.
4- From the book, ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists - By Ray Desmond, Christine Ellwood, 1994’, we see that George Percival Baker, like his father was passionate about horticulture, as the entry of him noted ‘collected plants in the Pyrenees, High Atlas, Morocco, Mt Olympus. President, Iris Society’.
5- A recently (Nov. 2008) published book, ‘Three Camels to Smyrna: The Story of the Oriental Carpet Manufacturers Company - Anthony Wynn, 2008’, gives new insight in the critical role the Baker family played in the establishment and development of carpet trading and export from Turkey and region, segment:
6- In April 2009 contact was made with a great-granddaughter of James Baker who has inherited a photo-album going back to the mid 19th century, the original owner probably James Baker, and many persons depicted now a mystery, however many have been named through clues and face matches with other known photos of the around 50 people recorded in a period roughly of 1840-1900 - click to view.
7- In August 2011 contact was made with Dr Charles Nelson who was able to shed some light on the plant-hunting exploits of George Percival Baker, but questions remain concerning the tulip named after him - read article.
8- The history section of the British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey web site displays the meeting notes of the first annual meeting of June 1st 1888, where G. and H. Baker are both listed as well as the secretary ‘W. Jew Junior’, possible relation of the family - view:
9- In August 2013 the descendant Helen Baker kindly photographed a great silver platter from Arthur Baker’s retirement from G&A Baker Ltd.
10- In May 2014 contact was made with descendant Gillian Mueller (grand-daughter of Elsie Baker and Arthur Leavitt) who provided a range of group photos annotated that helped in face identification of others of the period. Ms Mueller is in the early stages of writing a book on the Bakers based on letters, diaries, essays and photographs that have come down the family.
I now live on the family farm my father bought in 1947 because he loved
farming and I too love my garden and my lawn- “evidence of the gardening
gene” being dominant in the Baker line! And I might still carry relicts of Levantine culture in me, as when I was a little guy, I remember someone (but who?) taught me a rhyme that you said as you interlocked your fingers. It went like this:
‘How do you spell Constantinople? [then motioning with your hand where you turned your interlocked finger, inside out] This is the church and this is the steeple, and the people in the church spell Constantinople!’
Robert C. Baker
The first child, the fifth patient, the world’s longest surviving heart
valve recipient and Guiness Record holder (50 years in
Oct 2010, article / article 2 / article 3).
interview date 2005-9