Levantine Heritage
The story of a community
Recollections
Home | History of the community | Active Topics | Visiting the heritage | Registers | Economic analysis | Database | Newspaper archives | Links | Books | Levantine achievements
 
 
The Contributors
Rose Marie Caporal | Alessandro Pannuti | Ft Joe Buttigieg | Mary Lemma | Antoine ‘Toto’ Karakulak | Willie Buttigieg | Erika Lochner Hess | Maria Innes Filipuci | Catherine Filipuci | Harry Charnaud | Alfred A. Simes | Padre Stefano Negro | Giuseppe Herve Arcas | Filipu Faruggia | Mete Göktuğ | Graham Lee | Valerie Neild | Yolande Whittall | Robert Wilson | Osman Streater | Edward de Jongh | Daphne Manussis | Cynthia Hill | Chris Seaton | Andrew Mango | Robert C. Baker | Duncan Wallace QC | Dr Redvers ‘Red’ Cecil Warren | Nikolaos Karavias | Marianne Barker | Ümit Eser | Helen Lawrence | Alison Tubini Miner | Katherine Creon | Giovanni Scognamillo | Hakkı Sabancalı | Joyce Cully | Jeffrey Tucker | Yusuf Osman | Willem Daniels | Wendy Hilda James | Charles Blyth Holton | Andrew Malleson | Alex Baltazzi | Lorin Washburn | Tom Rees | Charlie Sarell | Müsemma Sabancıoğlu | Marie Anne Marandet | Hümeyra Birol Akkurt | Alain Giraud | Rev. Francis ‘Patrick’ Ashe | Fabio Tito | Pelin Böke | Antonio Cambi | Enrico Giustiniani | Chas Hill | Arthur ‘Mike’ Waring Roberts III | Angela Fry | Nadia Giraud | Roland Richichi | Joseph Murat | George Poulimenos | Bayne MacDougall | Mercia Mason-Fudim née Arcas | Eda Kaçar Özmutaf | Quentin Compton-Bishop | Liz Knight-Gök | Charles F. Wilkinson | Antony Wynn | Anna Laysa Di Lernia | Pierino & Iolanda Braggiotti | Philip Mansel | Bernard d’Andria | Achilleas Chatziconstantinou | Enrichetta Micaleff | Enrico Aliotti Snr. | Patrick Grigsby | Anna Maria and Rinaldo Russo | Mehmet Yüce | Wallis Kidd | Jean-Pierre Giraud | Osman Öndeş | Jean François d’Andria | Betty McKernan | Frederick de Cramer | Emilio Levante
The gradual quest for my family past

I 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 it.

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 publication “Godey’s 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, 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 format here:

 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 Edwards.

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:
Louisa 1854
George Percival 1856
Harry 1857
Fred 1857
Arthur 1859
Frederick William 1862
James 1864
Amelia 1866
Albert 1868

 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 house desirable.

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 extra information:
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 standing.
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.


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).



to top of page interview date 2005-9