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George Holmes was born in the third quarter of 1851 in Sunninghill, Berkshire, the son of Thomas Holmes, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Eleanor. He had moved to London by 1870, when he married Eliza Whiting. In the 1881 census he was working as a printer's warehouseman, and he later ran a tobacconist's shop. In 1890 he had George Trapps founded publishing firm Trapps Holmes and Company. The partnership between Trapps and Holmes was dissolved in 1908, after which Trapps continued the business on his own.

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