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William Baillie Baird papers

 Collection 0026-LBR-RG95-006

William Baillie Baird was a Scottish immigrant who became a coal miner and labor organizer in western Maryland. This collection consists of 38 items, mainly correspondence, pertaining to William Baillie Baird's commission as organizer for the Knights of Labor, 1897-1898, and his interest in promoting Robert W. Price as the founder of Labor Day, 1925-1927.


  • 1886-1927

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


4 Folders

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists of 38 items, mainly correspondence, pertaining to 1) Baird's commission as organizer for the Knights of Labor, 1897-1898, and 2) his interest in promoting Robert W. Price as the founder of Labor Day, 1925-1927.

Included in the former group are bylaws for Local Assembly No. 775, Knights of Labor, Midland, Maryland; the Secret Work and Password; and a letter to Baird from Grand Master Workman Terence V. Powderly concerning Powderly's appointment as Commissioner General of Immigration (1897). Also included are letters and notices of other K of L officials such as John W. Hayes, referring to K of L ritual and the initiation process, plus an application for charter for Local Assembly No. 2278 located at Baltimore, Maryland (1909).

The second group of letters consists of correspondence between Baird and several of his former K of L Brothers relating to a Robert W. Price Memorial to be built at Price's gravesite at Weir, Kansas, and to Price's recognition as founder of Labor Day. Baird's main correspondent on these subjects is E. I. Powers of Pittsburg, Kansas, secretary of the Robert W. Price Memorial Association. Of special interest are letters between Powers and William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, 1927, which discuss the Price memorial and the origin of Labor Day from the AFL point of view.

Biographical / Historical

William Baillie Baird was born in Ayshire, Scotland, in 1846. He came to the United States in 1866 and was naturalized in 1876. He married Ruth L. Womsley in 1879; there were six children born to the marriage, three of whom lived to adulthood.

The Bairds settled in western Maryland and William Baird found work in the coal mines at Eckhart. It was at Eckhart that he, presumably, became a member of the Knights of Labor. During the great coal strike of 1882, Baird was among the K of L strikers at the Frostburg, Maryland, mines.

In the years following the strike, the K of L experienced severe organizational loss in western Maryland. Baird secured an organizer's commission from the K of Lin these years and, while attempting to revive defunct K of L locals, he also agitated for the National Federation of Mine and Mine Laborers. In 1886 this organization met in conference with the Mine and Mine Laborers National District No. 135, K of L, which led to the founding of the United Mine Workers of America in 1890. Baird's organizational affiliation presumably followed this development, although in 1898 he still carried his K of L organizer's commission. According to Baird's own claim, he was in attendance at the founding convention of the American Federation of Labor [Baird to Powers, April, 8, 1927].

He joined with several former Knights and UMWA members in 1925 to promote Robert W. Price as the founder of Labor Day. Price had come to the United States from England and had worked in the western Maryland coal mines with Baird. He was blacklisted after the 1882 strike and went to work near the coal mines near Weir, Kansas. According to Baird and the Robert W. Price National Memorial Association, Price was the first to formally argue for a national holiday for American labor. This was within his K of L assembly as early as 1878. In his retirement Baird lived in Cumberland, Maryland. He died in 1939 at the age 83.


The William Baillie Baird Papers Mrs. Ruth Baird Thomson to Katherine Vogel, March 1, 1986. Harvey, Katherine A. The Best-Dressed Miners; Life and Labor in the Maryland Coal Region, 1835-1910. Ithaca: Cornell University, Press, 1969.

Fink, Gary A., ed. Labor Unions. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.

Custodial History

The William Baillie Baird Papers were donated to the George Meany Memorial Archives by Mrs. Ruth Baird Thompson, the granddaughter of William Baillie Baird, on March 7, 1986. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.

Processing Information

Tom Connors at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 1986. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker migrated the information contained in this finding aid from the George Meany Memorial Archives' Eloquent system. All migrated finding aids have been cleaned using OpenRefine software and ingested into ArchivesSpace using programmatic scripts created in Python. Upon ingest, Rebecca Thayer reviewed and minor revisions to this finding aid. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Rebecca Thayer also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.

Guide to the William Baillie Baird papers
Processed by Tom Connors at the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archives.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742