Highlights from the History of Needham in 100 objects
Souvenirs of Baker Estate
cast iron, glass, embossed metal
Various souvenirs and remnants from Ridge Hill Farms, the estate of William Emerson Baker.

William Emerson Baker was born in Roxbury in 1828. As a young man, he joined forces with a Boston tailor named William Grover, and together they formed the Grover and Baker Sewing Machine Company. The company was phenomenally successful, and Baker retired in 1868, a very rich man at the age of forty.

After retirement, Baker purchased nearly 800 acres in the southwest corner of Needham. In the twenty years that followed, Baker filled his summer estate, Ridge Hill Farms, with an assortment of attractions and exhibits intended to amuse, provoke, and educate. Baker was deeply committed to social reform; he supported the establishment of a public health service, the reconciliation of North and South following the Civil War, religious tolerance, and higher education for women.

Baker created a wide range of exhibits, attractions, and amusements on his extensive property, and he hosted frequent lavish parties to call attention to the causes he supported. Although it was widely regarded as an amusement park, Baker's estate was in fact the physical embodiment of Baker's opinions - often radical and always provocative - on American politics and society. The two glass pigs and the silver pin are souvenirs of Baker's parties, and the hand and foot are the remains of the shattered Mercury Statue that once stood atop his Boston Fire Monument. The frog was part of the Tripoint Island Frog Fountain.

Hand and foot from Mercury statue (1876): Gift of John Alden, 1973 [1973.3.2-3]
Painted cast iron Frog: Gift of John Alden, 1973 [1973.3.4]
Glass pig filled with navy beans (1875): Gift of Mrs. Frank Winthrop, 1972 [1972.3.1]
Glass perfume bottle pig (1874): Gift of John Alden, 1973 [1973.3.1]
Pig badge (1875): Gift of Mrs. Alton Fortiere, 2016 [2016.3.1]

William Emerson Baker
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Hand and foot from the Mercury statueHand and foot from the Mercury statue
Frog from Baker EstateFrog from Baker Estate
Souvenir glass pigs: Baker EstateSouvenir glass pigs: Baker Estate
Souvenir glass pigs: Baker EstateSouvenir glass pigs: Baker Estate
Pig badge from the Baker EstatePig badge from the Baker Estate