A short biography of prominent local citizen E.T. Baldwin in the 1891 publication “Leading Business Men of Manchester” reads, in part, “Teaching music has been with him a labor of love, and during all these years he has been closely identified with the progress of music in Manchester, Nashua, and vicinity, and in full sympathy with every project calculated to advance the interests of musical art, not only in Manchester, but throughout the state.”
E.T. Baldwin was an inspired piano and voice teacher, and sought-after director of bands and choral societies. His performances on the piano and organ, his choral music compositions, and his lectures encouraged a greater appreciation of first-rate music by the general public. His accomplishments included over 45 years as the organist and choirmaster of the First Congregational Church in Manchester. In addition, he played a notable role in the history of the Union Army brass bands in the early months of the Civil War.
Edwin Thomas (E.T.) Baldwin was born in New Ipswich, N.H., in 1832 to Edwin and Orpah Baldwin. The next year the couple moved to Nashua, where Orpah’s father Thomas Moor was choirmaster of the Old South Church, and Edwin’s father James was deacon of the Baptist Church. Orpah died in 1835, and Edwin later moved to Manchester. He and his second wife, Mary, had two daughters. He served as deacon of Baptist churches in Manchester and Nashua and played the violincello as a hobby. He was elected to two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. While he was in office in 1846, the town of Manchester’s petition to adopt the state’s first city charter was approved by the Legislature. Edwin Baldwin died in 1848 at the age of 41.
E.T. Baldwin spent his childhood with family in Manchester and Nashua where he attended both public and private schools. He showed a musical aptitude at a young age and took lessons in piano, organ, and music theory from local musicians and itinerant teachers from Boston.
E.T. thrived on this formal music education, and he also fell in love with the military-style brass bands that were flourishing in Nashua during this time. By the mid-1840s he was playing various brass instruments and the snare drum in the Nashua Band.
In 1850, at the age of 18, E.T. Baldwin became a church organist and music teacher in Nashua.
He moved to Manchester the next year, and by 1853 he had established his own little music school. One advertisement read, “Musical Instruction — Piano and Organ Playing, Harmony, Thorough Base, and Vocal Music.” At this time E.T. was boarding with his uncle Cyrus W. Baldwin who lived in Amoskeag Manufacturing Company housing on Stark Street. A mechanic and inventor, Cyrus was the superintendent of the Amoskeag’s machine shop, which produced textile equipment and steam locomotive engines. A local newspaperman wrote this about the enterprising E.T. Baldwin, “He is a young man of rare attainments and skill in music, for one of his age, both as a composer and performer, and we are glad to learn that his talents are so well and favorably appreciated by our citizens.”
In October 1854 E.T. Baldwin married Mary Louisa Robinson in the First Baptist Church in Manchester, where he was serving as organist. He later was organist of the Franklin Street Congregational Church in Manchester, and in 1857 was hired for the same position at the First Congregational Church. In November 1856 and February 1857, a cornet band and orchestra, under music director George H. Goodwin, presented popular concerts at Smyth’s Hall on Elm Street. E.T. Baldwin directed the vocalists at both events, with his wife Mary as a soloist.
Mary Baldwin died of tuberculosis in April 1859 at the age of 26, and the couple’s 3-year-old child Clara died a month later. That fall 20 or so young men from Manchester got together and hired Baldwin to teach them to play brass band music. The next summer, the ensemble began performing as Baldwin’s Cornet Band. The Republican Party hired the band to play at political rallies and parades during the presidential campaign which led to the election of Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 6, 1860.
Next week: 1861 — E. T. Baldwin and his brass band joins the Union army.