The first Baxter, who was a merchant and burgess of Dundee, was John Baxter in 1521. William Baxter of Balgavies, father of Edward, secured the British Naval contract for sailcloth in 1795 and the Victory carried Baxter sailcloth at the battle of Trafalgar.
By the 1840s Baxter Brothers Works at Upper and Lower Dens on the Dens Burn were the largest in the World. The Firm pioneered better working conditions for their employees, they opened a half-time school for young employees in 1841 and gave the 38 acre Baxter Park, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, to the people of Dundee in 1863. In 1881 the family endowed a College of Higher Education in Dundee, now Dundee University, with the stipulation that it should 'promote the education of persons of both sexes and the study of Science, Literature and the Fine Arts'. In 1888 a Technical Institute, funded by an earlier Baxter bequest followed, now Abertay University. In 1906 they provided the sailcloth for RRS Discovery, Captain Scott's Antarctic Exploration Ship.