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History of Early American Landscape Design

Anthony St. John Baker

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Anthony St. John Baker (1785-May 16, 1854), was the English diplomat who carried the Treaty of Ghent to the United States at the close of the War of 1812. During his years of official service in Europe and America, he recorded his impressions in written accounts as well as watercolor sketches, ultimately publishing the autobiographical Mémoires d’un voyageur qui se repose (Memoirs of a Traveler Now in Retirement) in 1850.

Baker returned to the United States in 1815 as Chargé d’Affaires, responsible for obtaining American ratification of the Treaty of Ghent. He advanced to the position of Consul General the following year. [1] Over the next decade, Baker’s drawings and written accounts attest to his keen interest in the physical environment of the United States as well as its political and social life. He documented the evolving city of Washington in three drawings made in 1826, including one of the newly rebuilt and re-landscaped President’s House.

Baker also created verbal and visual accounts of the country seats of prominent American families. Around 1820, while courting George Calvert’s daughter Caroline, he made a watercolor drawing of the family’s Maryland estate, Riversdale — the earliest known pictorial representation of the house — which was published as a transfer lithograph in London in 1827. [2] Baker visited several of the Virginia properties of the Tayloe family, including Mount Airy, where he noted the large conservatory (“with orange and lemon trees put out on the grass”) and an “extensive garden,” laid out “in squares and terraces, according to the fashion of that period,” and “in front, lawn planted, and terrace, with flowers on pedestals”. While the gentlemen of the neighborhood devoted themselves to horse racing, Baker preferred to accompany the ladies in exploring the grounds, “strolling over the garden before tea” on one evening, and on the next, taking “a long walk in the evening, with the ladies, in the park; thickly wooded, and many fine deer.” The brevity of his visit prevented Baker from accepting Robert Carter’s invitation to visit his neighboring house, Sabine Hall. [3].

Baker took a leave of absence from Washington in 1828 and officially resigned his post in 1831. [4] Retiring to Tunbridge Wells, England, he compiled Mémoires d’un voyageur qui se repose, published privately in 1850 in a limited edition of 50 copies. The four-volume set included numerous engravings after Baker’s watercolors, along with maps and other illustrations. [5] A collector of coins and medals, Baker was elected to the Numismatic Society in 1842, and actively supported the British Archaeological Association from its first congress in 1844. [6] Baker also subscribed to the seven-volume Collectanea Antiqua (1850) [7] His “valuable assemblage of coins and medals” and his “select library” of books relating to the history, laws, and statistics of the United States were auctioned by Messrs. S. Leigh Sotheby and John Wilkinson in December 1854. [8]


Riversdale, Mount Airy, White House


Arboretum, Arcade, Avenue, Bowling Green, Conservatory, Deer Park, Fall/Falling Garden, Fence, Ha-Ha/Sunk fence, Lawn, Nursery, Park, Plantation, Square, Statue, Sundial, Terrace/Slope Wall


  1. Troy Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 3, 262, view on Zotero; Paullin and Paxin, 1914, 40-41, view on Zotero.
  2. Margaret Law Calcott, Mistress of Riversdale: The Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert, 1795-1821 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 359, view on Zotero.
  3. Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, In Memoriam: Benjamin Ogle Tayloe (Philadelphia: Sherman & Co., Printers, 1872), 245-246 view on Zotero
  4. Proceedings of the Numismatic Society, April 1853-January 1854, 15; 65-66 view on Zotero.
  5. Copies of Baker’s valuable and extremely rare memoirs are held by the Huntington Library (extra-illustrated with 18 watercolors by Baker); Yale University Library (also extra-illustrated); New York Historical Society; William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. See Childs, 1970, 198-204, view on Zotero; Carey S. Bliss, "Acquisitions: July 1-November 15, 1952," Huntington Library Quarterly, 16 (1953): 216, view on Zotero.
  6. "Proceedings of the Numismatic Society. Session 1842-43," The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society, 5 (1842–1843): 57, 62 view on Zotero. For Baker’s subscription to the Journal of the British Archaeological Association and his participation in the Association’s congresses, see "Obituary for 1854," The Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 11 (1855): 60 view on Zotero.
  7. Charles Roach Smith, Collectanea Antiqua: Etchings and Notes on Ancient Remains, 7 vols. (London: J. Russell Smith, 1852), view on Zotero.
  8. Athenaeum (December 8, 1854), 1478; "Obituary for 1854," 60, view on Zotero.

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History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Anthony St. John Baker," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Anthony_St._John_Baker&oldid=5927 (accessed September 26, 2022).

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