Monday, 24 November 2008

Esther Hinckley Baker (1812-1850) of Massachusetts

In September I featured an ambrotype of an ironmonger's shop in Bakewell sent to me by Nino Manci. At around the same time, I received the following email from Nino:
I have just been doing some research into a Boston USA family called Baker Hinckley. Is this just a bizarre coincidence, because the link given on family history site is you again!
I confirmed that I had indeed purchased a small gem tintype album on eBay a few years ago, containing numerous named portraits from the BAKER and HINCKLEY families of Massachusetts. Having researched the album in some detail, I published the results as a series of web pages, The Hinckley Album : Henry Hersey Hinckley's Gem Tintype Photograph Album, which Nino had stumbled across, presumably as the result of a Google search. He replied with more detail:
I am never successful with good [daguerreotype] images on Ebay but I was determined and successful this time ... the Daguerreotype was of a named woman, "Esther Hinckley Baker out of Providence"! I had no idea at this point that this would lead me back to you! Now Providence is 40 miles from Boston and the daguerreotypist is named on the plate as Hale. Although there were several Hale daguerreotypists there was one established in Milk Street, Boston about 200 yards from the [more famous] studio of Southworth and Hawes in Tremont Row ... The first thing that drew me to this image was that is is so typical of the fine portraiture of Southworth & Hawes.
Image © and courtesy of Nino Manci
"Esther Hinckley Baker out of Providence," c. 1846-1850
Ninth-plate daguerreotype by Hale of Boston
Image © and courtesy of Nino Manci

Nino subsequently sent me a scanned image of what I agree is a lovely portrait of a attractive young lady. The daguerreotype measures 53 x 66 mm, which is commonly referred to as a ninth-plate size. It appears to have lost its case, but still has the matt and pinchbeck surround. The most exciting discovery for me was the identity of the subject.

Image © 2005 Brett Payne

A few years ago, I purchased this small (82 x 91 mm) green faux-leather album because I was looking for a relatively inexpensive example of a gem tintype album, and this one appeared to have several of the subjects identified which, from a genealogical point of view, endeared me to it immediately.

Image © 2005 Brett Payne

The album contains 35 photographs, 27 of which have been annotated. In addition, the front inside cover of the album has what appears to be the original owner's name, "Henry H. Hinckley," written diagonally across the page. I used census and other records to identify the owner of the album and build up a detailed picture of his family, eventually succeeding in identifying portraits of fourteen different members of the extended family.

Image © 2005 Brett Payne
Family Tree of Henry H. Hinckley & Esther May Baker née Hinckley
Click on image for full tree

These included a daughter and a grandson of Henry H. Hickley's paternal aunt Esther May Hinckley (1812-1850), who married Captain Ezra Howes Baker (1811-1876) in 1832. It appears that she is the subject of Nino's daguerreotype! Esther was born on 7 August 1812 at Nantucket, Massachusetts, the fourth of ten children of Lot Hinckley (1782-1852) and Rebecca Cobb. Her family moved to Barnstable in the mid-1820s and that is where she was married, but she then settled with her husband, a sailor and merchant, in South Dennis or Yarmouth Port, Barnstable County. A few years later, in 1838, they moved to Boston where Ezra was in partnership with various individuals, owning ships and engaging in domestic and foreign trade.

Image © and courtesy of
1850 Census, Boston Ward 12, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Roll M432_339; Page 288; Image 115; Sch. 762
Image © and courtesy of
Click on image for more details

Esther is reported to have died on 25 July 1850, a few months after the birth of her fourth child. However, the federal census of that year, enumerated on 24th August, shows the family living in Boston Ward 12, including Ezra, Esta [sic] and all four surviving children, so her actual date of death is not clear.

Ezra Howes Baker (1811-1876)
from History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts,
1890, (ed.) Simeon L. Deyo, Courtesy of David Kew

An 1890 history of Barnstable County, reproduced online by David Kew, contains a detailed biography of Ezra Howes Baker, including a fine portrait of him, and which repeats Esther's July 1850 death date.

Luther Holman Hale (1823-1885) operated photographic studios in Boston, first on Milk Street and later at 109 Washington Street, from 1845 until 1862, the earlier years in partnership with his brother Charles E. Hale, who had started as a daguerreotypist around 1842. It seems likely to me, therefore, that this portrait of Esther May Baker nee Hinckley was probably taken in the mid- to late 1840s, say between 1846 and 1850. [Sources: Craig's Daguerreian Registry & Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Photography by John Hannavy]

Image © and courtesy of the George Eastman House Photography Collection
Unidentified woman, by Southworth & Hawes, c.1850
Sixth plate daguerreotype, 70 x 83 mm
Image © and courtesy of the George Eastman House Photography Collection
Accession Number: 1974:0193:0642

By way of comparison, the selection of Southworth & Hawes daguerreotype images made available on Flickr by George Eastman House includes a similar style portrait of an unidentified young woman with an almost identical hairstyle, shown above, tentatively dated c.1850.

In January this year, I was contacted by Sam Hinckley, a great-grandson of Henry Hersey Hinckley, owner of the gem tintype album. He sent me some more photographs of the Hinckley family which I hope to feature in a future Photo-Sleuth article, and I'm sure will be excited to hear of the discovery of this early photograph of another family member. Many thanks to Nino for bringing this remarkable coincidence to my attention, and for supplying the engaging image of his recent purchase.


Indexed 1840-1930 US Federal Census images, from Ancestry
International Genealogical Index (IGI) at FamilySearch from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, (ed.) Simeon L. Deyo, 1890, New York: H. W. Blake & Co., CHAPTER XVIII. pages 507-577, reproduced on David Kew's Cape Cod History, Literature & Genealogy web pages
Craig's Daguerreian Registry
Hale, Luther Holman (1823-1885) American daguerreotypist, by Bob Zeller, in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Photography, (ed.) John Hannavy, courtesy of GoogleBooks
Judah Baker, in Ancestral Anecdotes by B. Pahlow
Barbarowa Genealogy: Brooklyn Village, Ohio - An Exploration of a Neighbourhood's Family History
Ezra Howes Baker in Van Houtte - Descendants of Thomas Burgess 1601-1685, by C. Sutherland
Ezra Howes Baker, in Wing Family of America, Inc.


  1. Hi Brett, wonderful blog, really enjoying reading it. Just wanted to give you my thoughts on the USA census and why Esther still seems to have been alive a month after she apparently died.
    I've noticed that the USA doesn't have an actual census date like the UK does and that it is enumerated over what seems to be as much as a year. I think it is because the USA being such a large place that they didn't have enough enumerators so they have months to do their job. I have one case where a person has been enumerated twice in different places in the same census (unusual name so I know it's him), the date of the entries are months apart so I finally worked out that he had been enumerated, moved to another state soon after and been enumerated again! I puzzled over that one for ages.
    In Esther's case the enumerator probably did all his enumerating over some weeks or maybe a few months then wrote the date on the top of the page when he filled out the enumerating form. In some cases you will see down the left side of the pages the enumerator has written in the dates of when they were done, some of them being days apart.
    As I say, just my thoughts on it, it's not official :).


  2. Thank you, Dawn. Those are interestig observations about the US Census "dates" which I had not appreciated. This may well explain the anomaly in Esther's date of death.

    Oh, and by the way, I'm very much enjoying reading your blogs too.

    Regards and best wishes, Brett


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