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Bishop James Chamberlain Baker Collection



Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Bishop Baker: Artifacts

Bishop Baker: Papers, Essays, Letters, Photographs

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Bishop James Chamberlain Baker Collection, 1799-1969 | Theology Library Archives

By Kara Jackman, Archivist

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Collection Overview

Title: Bishop James Chamberlain Baker Collection, 1799-1969Add to your cart.

ID: 03/065

Extent: 2.0 Boxes


In box one, the first section or series of records is filled with artifacts collected by Bishop James C. Baker and his grandson and donor, Benson Bobrick. Notable artifacts are the an ivory-handled seal that belonged to Bishop Herbert Welch and a pewter "Loving Cup" presented to Bishop James C. Baker by Asian students in 1918 for his ecumenism work that he did in Illiinois with students from Japan, China, and Korea.

In box two, there multiple sections of records and series in this box. The first section of the second box Civil War era material created by Benjamin Webster Baker. Bishop Baker kept essays and correspondence kept by his grandfather Benjamin Webster "Webb" Baker. These essays were written for school and are on a range of topics from women's suffrage to education. There is also correspondence written by Benjamin Webster "Webb" Baker. from before and during the Civil War. Highlights from this section include daguerrotypes of Benjamin "Webb" Baker, and photocopies of letters written by Baker from the field during the Civil War, images of his brother who fought alongside him and died at the battle of Perryville, Kentucky. In the second section of the second box, the collection contains materials relating to Bishop James C. Baker, his family, and work in the United Methodist Church in missions and ecumenism. Highlights from this section of material include, letters written between the Bishop and his son-in-law Robert L. Bobrick about various topics relating raising family, photographs of Bishop working in California Pacific Annual conference, with family, and of the Bishop's family members. There are also program booklets, newsclippings, and printed material written by or about Bishop James C. Baker. In the final section of box two, there is a collection of books from Baker's library, inscribed by Bishop James C. Baker. There are titles by T.S. Eliot, Henry David Thoreau, and John Dewey included.

Date Acquired: 03/23/2018


The Bishop James Chamberlain Baker (b. 1879 - d.1969) is comprised of printed materials related to his work in the United Methodist Church in Illinois and California, his family, ancestors, and work in ecumenism finding the Wesley Foundation at the University Illinois, Ohio State University and other schools and universities.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The collection includes artifacts, personal papers, family and ancestoral correpondence from the Civil War, family photographs, and official programs from events concerning Bishop James Chamberlain Baker.

Collection Historical Note


Retired Bishop James Chamberlain Baker, 90, one of United Methodism's best-kown elder statesmen and founder of the Wesley Foundation movement on college campuses throughout the nation, died Friday, Sept. 26, at a hospital here.

Bishop Baker suffered a stroke two weeks ago and was transferred from the infirmary at Claremont Manor, a United Methodist retirement home where he lived to the hospital two days before his death.

He was elected to the episcopacy in 1928 and retired as resident bishop of the Los Angeles Area in 1952.

Bishop Baker's ministry in The Methodist Church spanned all this century. He was born in Sheldon, Ill., June 2, 1879, and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1893. He entereed the ministry in 1900 and was ordained in the Illinois Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At the time he was on the faculty of Missouri Wesleyan College in Cameron, Missouri, and in 1901 he married Miss Lena Benson, whom he had met while teaching there.

In 1902, Bishop Baker entered the Boston University School of Theology and accepted a student pastorate in Ashland, Mass. He received the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1905 and returned to his native Illinois to become pastor of a church in McLean.

In 1907 he accepted an appointment to Trinity Church in Urbana, Illinois, and embarked upon what he always viewed as the greatest adventure of his life. Trinity Church was located adjacent to the campus of University of Illinois, then a school of less than 5,000 enrollment. Bishop Baker and his wife created a church that ministered in a unique and innovative way to that campus community, and the style of campus ministry that he carried out during his 21 years at Trinity Church became the model for hundreds of student ministries of all faiths at tax-supported institutions of higher learning throughout the world. Bishop Baker was known for the remainder of his life as the "father of the Wesley Foundation," an honorary title that he valued as highly as he did the title of Bishop. When asked on his 80th birthday what he prized most, he replied without hesitation, "The affection and confidence of so many young people."

Thus it was with somewhat mixed emotions that Bishop Baker accepted the call to the Methodist episcopacy at the General Conference in Kansas City in 1928. He did not want to leave student work, but he faced his new challenges with a sense of anticipation. He was assigned to the Seoul Area, with responsibility for Methodist work in Korea, Japan, and Manchuria.

In 1932 he returned to the United States and was assigned to the San Francisco Area, which then included work in Hawaii, Japan and Korea as well as California. In 1939, he became the new episcopal head of the California Area of the newly united Methodist Church, and he moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter. In 1948, when the California Area was divided into two episcopal areas, Bishop Baker was assigned to the Los Angeles area. He retired in 1952, to be succeeded by Bishop Kennedy.

During his years as an active bishop, Bishop Baker served as a Methodist delegate to many international gathering of Christians. He was world chairman the International Missionary Council in 1942, served as consultant to the founding conference of teh United Nations in San Francisco in 1944, and was one of four men sent by the Protestant Churches of America to Japan during the occupation in 1945. In addition to found the Wesley Foundation, Bishop Baker could be called a founder of the World Council of Churches, for he was a member of the committee that organized that body in 1948. During that same year he also served as president of the Council of Bishops of The Methodist Church, the church's highest office.

After his retirement Bishop Baker remained active in many church affairs. He taught at the graduate School of Theology of the University of Southern California for several terms, and he showed his lifelong concern for students by donating to the school, after it moved to Claremont, Calif., most of his personal theological library. He attended sessions of teh Southern California-Arizona Annual Conference and the General Conferences of the churches. He carried on a heavy speaking schedule until well past his 80th birthday.

In recent years Bishop Baker's eyesight began to fail, but he continued to read through eyes of others. Dozens of friends and colleagues paid visits to his modest retirement home in Claremont to read and visit with the bishop. Interviewed shortly before his 90th birthday this year, Bishop Baker expressed some views on student radicals and campus dissent that revealed a continuing and deep insight into the psychology of students. And he reiterated his own position that the church "has no more important work" than its ministry to students.

There are no immediate survivors. Mrs. Bakker died in 1966 and their only child, a daughter, died in 1955.

(Originally published by The Methodist Christian Advocate, 1969)

Historical Note:

The collection documents the family life of Bishop James C. Baker. The majority of the material relates to his wife, Lena Baker, his ancestors from the Civil War, and son-in-law.

Administrative Information

Repository: Theology Library Archives

Access Restrictions: No restrictions on access on these records.

Use Restrictions: Contact donor for publication and display of records in this collection.

Acquisition Source: Donated by Benson Bobrick

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1: Bishop Baker: Artifacts, c. 1918-1959],
[Box 2: Bishop Baker: Papers, Essays, Letters, Photographs, 1869-],

Box 1: Bishop Baker: Artifacts, c. 1918-1959Add to your cart.
Item 1: Loving Cup, 1918Add to your cart.
Inscribed to Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Baker from the "Friday Circle" of Oriental Students, Christmas 1918
Item 2: Golden Anniversary Wedding Album, 1951Add to your cart.
Photo album compiled by Bishop J.C. Baker and his wife Lena Baker, June 12,1951
Item 3: Oversize Photographs of Bishop James C. Baker, c. 1930-1950Add to your cart.
Item 4: Ivory Dragon Seal, with tiny jeweled eyesm that belonged to Bishop Herbert Welch, when he was Bishop of Korea, c. 1929Add to your cart.
Item 5: Oversized Photocopied Records: Pension Records for Martha Francis Baker and Benjamin Webster "Webb" Baker, 1755-1843Add to your cart.

Browse by Box:

[Box 1: Bishop Baker: Artifacts, c. 1918-1959],
[Box 2: Bishop Baker: Papers, Essays, Letters, Photographs, 1869-],

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