Posted 30 January 2007

Ms Mary Baker with Concertina, c. 1857

Notes by Pat Shipman

The Picture Gallery for this issue features a photograph—after a daguerreotype from the London studio of Antoine Claudet, c. 1857—of Ms Mary Baker (d. 1882), nicknamed ‘Min’, holding an English concertina, probably a Wheatstone (see picture).

wheatstone treble concertina no 5899
Ms Mary ‘Min’ Baker (d. 1882),
as shown in a photograph after a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet of 107 Regent Street, c. 1857;
reproduced with the kind permission of Rev. Ian Graham-Orlebar, a descendant of the Baker family.

Mary was one of seven children born to a well-to-do family of merchants with extensive sugar holdings in Jamaica and Mauritius. In 1855, Mary, still unwed (she eventually married into a family named Cawsten), became the surrogate mother to the children of her widowed brother Samuel White Baker (1821–1893), who, after his wife passed away that year, sought solace in hunting and travel. In fact, Sam Baker became well known as a big-game hunter and explorer, and together with his second wife, Florence Szasz (von Sass), set out to search for the source of the Nile and eventually discovered Lake Albert (named after Prince Albert) in 1864 (for which he was knighted in 1866).1

What is particularly interesting about the photo of Mary and her concertina is that we may be able to identify the instrument she is holding and when she bought it. As Allan Atlas has suggested, Mary may well be the Miss Baker who purchased Wheatstone no. 6628 for twelve guineas on 31 October 1854, and later treated herself to two more concertinas: on 3 December 1858, when she borrowed Wheatstone 10663, and 27 August 1859, when she paid £2.0.0 for Wheatstone 9981.2

Finally, Mary might not have been the only member of the family who played the concertina, as the Wheatstone sales ledgers also record transactions for a Mrs and Mr Baker, with the latter having purchased his concertina on 23 August 1859, just four days prior to Ms Baker’s final transaction.



1 I tell the story of the Bakers’ exploration in To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa (New York: William Morris, 2004). [ Back to text ]

2 See his ‘Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers: the Gendered Concertina in Victorian England, 1835–1870’, Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 39 (2006). The three transactions are recorded in the Wheatstone sales ledgers: 31 October 1854 in C1049, p. 29; 3 December 1858 in C1051, p. 54; and 27 August 1859 in C1051, p. 85. The ledgers are housed at the Horniman Museum, London, Wayne Archive, and appear online at [ Back to text ]


Pat Shipman ( ) is Adjunct Professor of Biological Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Shipman, in the early part of her career, was a taphonomist who pioneered the use of scanning electron microscopy in studies of ancient bone assemblages to determine whether the bones were modified by animals or hominids. She studied fossil assemblages from early Pleistocene sites in Kenya and Tanzania and has examined purported worked bones from Europe and North and South America. In recent years, she has concentrated on the history of anthropology and evolution. Her research concerns who makes discoveries and why and how they are interpreted. She has written several books on the subject enjoyed by both general and specialist audiences, including Taking Wing; Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight (New York: Simon & Schuster) which won the Phi Beta Kappa science book prize.

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Ms Mary Baker
with concertina, c. 1857


The original version of this article appeared in PICA [Papers of the International Concertina Association], Vol. 3 (2006), pages 36–37.
© 2006 Pat Shipman.

Links to related documents

atlas-ladies Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers: the Gendered Concertina in Victorian England, 1835–1870
by Allan W. Atlas
This study looks at the 978 women for whom there are 1,769 transactions—about 12% of the total—recorded in nine extant Wheatstone & Co. sales ledgers that list the firm’s day-to-day sales from April 1835 to May 1870. It is in two parts: (1) an Introduction, which analyses the data presented in the Inventory from a demographic-sociological point of view and places Wheatstone’s commerce with women into the context of its business activity as a whole; and (2) the Inventory (with three appendices), which lists every transaction for each of the 978 women, identifies as many of them as possible, and offers a miscellany of comments about both the women and the transactions. Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle v. 39 (2006). 239 pages. Briefly, the roster of Wheatstone’s female customers reads like a list of Victorian England’s rich-and-famous: the Duchess of Wellington and 146 other members of the titled aristocracy (more than twice as many as their male counterparts), the fabulously wealthy philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts, members of the landed gentry, and such mainstays of London’s musical life as the guitarist Madame R. Sidney Pratten, the organist Elizabeth Mounsey, and the contralto Helen Charlotte Dolby, as well as a large number of Professors of Concertina.
Posted 21 March 2007
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lachenal-sig-wheatstone-concertina-ledgers Wheatstone Concertina Ledgers
Historical business records of C. Wheatstone & Co. from the Horniman Museum in London. Earlier ledgers from the Wayne Archives contain company sales records from the late 1830s to the 1860s along with production records from the 1860s to the 1890s and some early records of wages and other payments. Later ledgers from the Dickinson Archives contain production records from 1910 to 1974. All surviving ledgers have been digitized (some 2,300 pages in total) and made available free on the web for private research. The same material is also available to buy on an inexpensive CD. Includes an introduction to the project by Margaret Birley, Keeper of Musical Instruments at the Horniman Museum, and an article by Robert Gaskins describing in detail how the ledgers were digitized.
Posted 15 June 2003; Updated 15 June 2005
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