William Dudley Haywood

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William "Big Bill" Haywood Trial: 1907

Defendant: William Dudley Haywood
Crime Charged: Conspiracy to commit murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Clarence Darrow, Fred Miller, John Nugent, Edmund Richardson, and Edgar Wilson
Chief Prosecutors: William E. Borah, James H. Hawley, Charles Koelsche, and Owen M. Van Duyn
Judge: Fremont Wood
Place: Boise, Idaho
Dates of Trial: May 9-July 28, 1907
Verdict: Not guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: The government used the courts and the military in a blatant attempt to discredit and destroy the left-wing labor movement during a time of civil unrest. William Haywood's acquittal was widely applauded as a victory for organized labor and a defeat for big business.

Born in 1869, William Dudley Haywood, popularly known as "Big Bill," grew up in the rough-and-tumble world of the old Wild West, where the discovery of vast deposits of valuable metals had led to the exploitation of natural resources by the big mining companies. Conditions in the mines were poor: miners performed back-breaking labor for long hours and low pay in dark, cramped, and poorly ventilated mines. During the rise of organized labor in the late 19th century, union organizers found miners a ready audience for their message of labor activism.

Haywood rose through the Western labor movement and became an executive officer of the Western Federation of Miners. He was one of organized labor's recognized radicals. Haywood belonged to the Socialist Party and actively supported the anarchist International Workers of the World, or "Wobblies." Further, Haywood publicly endorsed strikes and violence to further the workers' cause. Haywood's radicalism made him the enemy of big business and the federal government.

The Coeur d'Alene Strike

Idaho's Coeur d'Alene region is the site of some of the world's richest mineral deposits. Haywood's Western Federation of Miners led a general miners' strike against all the mining companies in the area. By 1898, when Frank R. Steunenberg was re-elected governor of Idaho, the strike had become a fullblown struggle between labor and management. The miners fought Pinkerton guards hired by the companies and "scabs," or replacement workers, sent by the companies to break the strike. When a bomb explosion killed two men, Steunenberg feared the strike would degenerate into open warfare and begged Washington for help.

In response, President William McKinley sent federal troops to Idaho, crushing the strike. In the process, the legal rights of the strikers were trampled and hundreds of men were held without bail in stockades nicknamed "bull pens." Steunenberg, who had been considered a pro-labor politician when first elected, now was a marked man. Years later, on December 30, 1905, when his term as governor had expired, Steunenberg was killed by a bomb blast in the front yard of his house in Caldwell, Idaho.

Two days later, January 1, 1906, the police arrested Harry Orchard in Caldwell for Steunenberg's murder. Orchard confessed, telling the police that Haywood and Charles H. Moyer, another executive officer of the Western Federation, paid him to kill Steunenberg. After a controversial extradition from Colorado, Haywood, Moyer, and another union member named George Pettibone were sent to Boise, Idaho, to stand trial.

The famous criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow went to Boise to defend Haywood, assisted by Fred Miller, John Nugent, Edmund Richardson, and Edgar Wilson. On the bench was Judge Fremont Wood. The prosecution team was comprised of William E. Borah, James H. Hawley, Charles Koelsche, and Owen M. Van Duyn. Haywood's trial for conspiracy to commit murder began May 9, 1907.

Haywood's Fate Rests on Orchard's Credibility

The prosecution's star witness was Harry Orchard, the confessed assassin. Orchard had a long criminal career, however, and readily admitted that he lied many times in the past "whenever it suited my purpose." Nevertheless, Orchard stuck with his story that Haywood and Moyer wanted him to murder Steunenberg. Darrow suspected that the mining companies were Orchard's real masters and said so to the jury:

The mine owners of Colorado and Idaho are pulling the wires to make you dance like puppets. They gathered these officers of the Western Federation of Miners and sent them here to be tried and hanged.

When the prosecutors called Haywood to take the stand, Haywood denied hiring Orchard to kill Frank Steunenberg. He admitted that he hated the former governor, but no more or less than could be expected from a union radical. Responding to the prosecution's question, Haywood said:

I felt toward him much as I did toward you and others who were responsible for martial law and the bull pen in the Coeur d'Alene.

Darrow questioned more than 80 character witnesses who knew Orchard well and who testified that he could not be trusted to tell the truth. Most of this testimony was redundant, however, since Orchard had already admitted to a history of chronic lying. Darrow went on to declare that the real issue was big business' effort to crucify Haywood and the unions. Addressing the jury, Darrow said:

Gentlemen, it is not for him alone that I speak. I speak for the poor, for the weak, for the weary, for that long line of men who, in darkness and despair, have borne the labors of the human race. The eyes of the world are upon you, upon you twelve men of Idaho tonight. If you kill him your act will be applauded by many. If you should decree Bill Haywood's death, in the railroad offices of our great cities men will applaud your names. If you decree his death, amongst the spiders of Wall Street will go up paeans of praise for these twelve good men and true.

Because the jury was composed of Idaho farmers, Darrow deliberately appealed to their working-class roots. His lengthy closing argument made it sound as if all farmers and miners were brothers united against their corporate oppressors.

Prosecutor William Borah tried to get the jury to focus on the real issue, namely whether Haywood was a party to Steunenberg's murder as Orchard had claimed:

[T]hat bleak winter night with the blood of my dear friend marking the white earth, I saw Idaho dishonored and disgraced. I saw murder, no, a thousand times worse, I saw anarchy unfold its red menace.This trial has no other purpose or implication than conviction and punishment of the assassins of Governor Steunenberg.

Not only did Borah try to keep the jury's focus on the heinous crime of murder-by-hire, but Borah saw Darrow's political appeal to the jury as a twoedged sword and effectively wielded it against him. Borah knew that the unpopular aspect of the union movement was its connection with anarchists, Wobblies, and others trying to overthrow the government. Knowing that Haywood's connection with these elements was well publicized, Borah played on the threat of social revolution to traditional values:

We see anarchy, that pale, restless, hungry demon from the crypts of hell, fighting for a foothold in Idaho! Should we compromise with it? Or should we crush it ?. I only want what you want, the gates to our homes, the yard gate whose inward swing tells of the returning husband and father, shielded and guarded by the courage and manhood of Idaho juries!

Haywood Goes Free

By the end of the trial, the jury had seen one of Clarence Darrow's great performances and equally respectable oratory from the prosecution. Judge Wood, however, said very little until the time came for him to give his instructions to the jury. Unexpectedly, Wood's instructions came down heavily on William Haywood's side. Wood reminded the jury that while they might not be convinced of Haywood's innocence, under the law they must find him not guilty unless the prosecutors had proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, in effect, Wood's instructions to the jury attacked the prosecution's inability to bring forward other evidence in support of Orchard's accusations:

Gentlemen, under the statutes of this state, a person cannot be convicted of a crime upon testimony of an accomplice, unless such accomplice is corroborated by other evidence.

Whether it was the result of Darrow's eloquence or Judge Wood's instructions, on July 28, 1907, the jury finished its deliberations and, before a packed courtroom, returned a verdict of not guilty.

After leaving Boise and the Steunenberg murder trial behind him, Haywood returned to his radical affiliations, keeping up his support for the Wobblies. When World War I broke out, public opinion and the government turned against the Wobblies and other leftists, who were then considered unpatriotic for promoting the cause of world labor instead of American victory. The Wobblies not only circulated posters and pamphlets denouncing the war, but maintained contacts with the communists who had seized power in the former Russian Empire.

In 1918, the government again brought Haywood to trial, this time for treason. Haywood's luck had run out. The jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. While out on bail, Haywood fled the United States for the Soviet Union, where the communist regime granted him asylum. Haywood lived in the Soviet Union for the rest of his life, and after his death in 1928 the Soviets honored him with a burial in the Kremlin.

Despite Haywood's colorful postscript, his earlier acquittal was an important victory for organized labor. The government brought the full weight of the courts and the military to bear against labor but was unable to taint it with the blood of Steunenberg's murder. Because the government was supported by the mining companies, Haywood's acquittal was also seen as a defeat for big business.

Stephen G. Christianson

Suggestions for Further Reading

Carlson, Peter. Roughneck. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1983.

Conlin, Joseph Robert. Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1969.

Dubofsky, Melvyn. "Big Bill" Haywood. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

Haywood, William. Bill Haywood's Book. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983.

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William Dudley Haywood

American labor leader and one of his era's most notorious radicals, William Dudley Haywood (1869-1928) led the Industrial Workers of the World during that union's heyday.

William Haywood was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, into a working-class family. His father died when Haywood was 3 years old. After a few years of school he took his first job as a miner in Nevada about 1884. He married, then floated from job to job, working as cowboy and construction worker but mostly as a miner.

In 1896, working in Silver City, Idaho, Haywood became a charter member of the local Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Demonically energetic, he held every office in the local union and was largely responsible for its success, helping administer its hospital and maintaining virtually unanimous organization of the miners. Also active in the WFM's central office, in 1899 Haywood was elected to its executive board. In 1900, elected secretary-treasurer, he left the mines for good.

"Big Bill" Haywood spoke for the militant, radical wing of the WFM and led the union's strikes between 1903 and 1905. In 1906 he was indicted for the murder of a former Idaho governor and, after being legally kidnaped from Denver, was acquitted in an internationally noted trial. Although eased out of the WFM after the trial, he had gathered a large personal following because of the publicity.

Haywood had joined the Socialist party in 1901 and was its candidate for governor of Colorado in 1906. Between 1908 and 1912 he spent most of his time on speaking tours in the United States and abroad. In 1910 he attended the International Socialist Congress and in 1911 was elected to the Socialist party's executive committee.

By 1912 Haywood was devoting himself largely to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the "Wobblies," which he had helped found in 1905 as a revolutionary alternative to the American Federation of Labor. In 1914, after moderate Socialists removed him from his party post, Haywood became secretary-treasurer of the IWW.

Haywood traveled constantly, organizing for the IWW and leading the union's famous strikes at Lawrence, Mass. (1912), and Paterson, N.J. (1913). He impressed an administrative stability upon the erratic union so that by 1916 it seemed a permanent fixture on the American industrial scene. With World War I, however, the IWW was attacked by groups ranging from patriotic lynch mobs to the Federal government. Haywood and a hundred other "Wobbly" leaders were indicted under the Espionage Acts, and after a long (and subsequently discredited) trial Haywood was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a large fine.

In 1921, out on bail pending appeal, Haywood fled the country for the Soviet Union, where he was lionized for a short time. But he lapsed quickly into obscurity and lived forgotten on a small pension in Moscow until his death on May 17, 1928.

Further Reading

Haywood's autobiography, Bill Haywood's Book (1929), is reliable, if incomplete. The only full-length biography is Joseph R. Conlin, Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement (1969). Two good essays on Haywood are by Carl Hein in Harvey Goldberg, ed., American Radicals (1957), and by Melvyn Dubofsky in Alfred F. Young, ed., Dissent: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (1968). On the IWW, Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All (1969), provides a good narrative history, while Joseph R. Conlin, Bread and Roses Too (1970), focuses on specific problems of IWW history.

Additional Sources

Bird, Stewart., The Wobblies: the U.S. vs. Wm. D. Haywood, et al.: a play, New York: Smyrna Press, 1980. □

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Labor leader Bill Haywood was regarded as a radical in the growing labor movement in the United States. A public figure throughout most of his life, Haywood was the central figure in two famous court cases.

Haywood was born in 1869 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1896, Haywood, a coal miner, became an active participant in the Western Federation of Miners. He rapidly rose to prominence in the federation, securing offices of leadership by 1904. His tactics were militant in nature, as was evidenced by the violence of the Cripple Creek strike that occurred in Colorado in 1904.

In 1905, former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg was killed by an explosion caused by a bomb hidden in his home by Harry Orchard. Orchard admitted his guilt and implicated three leaders of the Western Federation of Miners: President Charles H. Moyer, Secretary-Treasurer Haywood, and retired leader George A. Pettibone. These men were abducted from Denver and taken to Boise, Idaho, to stand trial. The Haywood-Moyer-Pettibone case took on national significance for two reasons: (1) it involved a radical labor organization, and (2) eminent attorney clarence darrow acted as defense attorney. The three men were subsequently acquitted (Pettibone v. Nichols, 203 U.S. 192, 27 S. Ct. 111, 51 L. Ed. 148 [1906]).

"It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism."
—William Haywood

The industrial workers of the world (IWW) was established in 1905, and Haywood was the founder and director of this labor organization. He was a proponent of group action and class struggle, and he abhorred compromise. He continued to use violence in his fight for labor, and led two infamous textile

workers' strikes in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1912), and in Paterson, New Jersey (1913).

Haywood and other members of his IWW organization attempted to become members of the Socialist party but were rejected for their theories of violent action.

In 1918, Haywood was again on trial. One hundred sixty-five IWW leaders, including Haywood, were accused of seditious activities during world war i. Haywood was found guilty and sentenced to spend the next twenty years in prison.

Haywood was free on bail in 1921, pending the date of a new trial, when he escaped and sought asylum in the Soviet Union. He died in Moscow seven years later.

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Haywood, William Dudley (1869–1928) US labour leader. He helped organize the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and advocated violence in pursuit of workers' rights. During World War I he was convicted of sedition. Released on bail in 1921, he fled to the Soviet Union.