"Big Bill" Haywood

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William Dudley "Big Bill" Haywood (1869-1928) was the founder in 1905 of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), nicknamed the "Wobblies".[1]

Before founding the IWW, Haywood, an avowed atheist[2] and Communist,[3] was secretary-treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), to whom he suggested in 1899 that they had a right to steal gold because the nation's wealth belonged to those who produced it.[4]


In 1899 while the Idaho state militia was in the Philippines, the WFM struck, seizing a Northern Pacific train and 400 pounds of dynamite. The mob, estimated at 1,000 men, many armed and masked, shot and killed two men, and blew up two mines,[5] causing $250,000 in damages,[6] equivalent to more than $5 million today.[7] In the absence of the militia, Governor Frank Steunenberg appealed to President William McKinley for Federal assistance. The U.S. Army sent 400 troops of the 24th Infantry and Fourth Cavalry (mostly African-Americans),[8] under Brigadier General H.C. Mirriam,[9] who placed Shoshone County under martial law, served warrants on hundreds of rioters, and quelled the violence.[10]

Steunenberg retired at the end of his term in 1901, but was assassinated in 1905 by a bomb planted at his home. Within hours and confronted with overwhelming evidence, former miner Albert E. Horsley (alias Thomas Hogan and Harry Orchard) confessed to the murder,[11] implicating Haywood as a co-conspirator.[12] Horsley's partner Steve Adams also confessed[13] but later recanted and disappeared.[14] Haywood was indicted and tried in 1907 for conspiracy to commit murder.[15] He was represented by perhaps the greatest murder defense lawyer of his time,[16] Clarence Darrow.[17] Haywood was acquitted, after the judge instructed the jury, "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."[18]

Industrial Workers of the World

Bombing of the Federal building, Chicago, moments after 95 Wobblies were convicted there, 1918. Source: National Archives and Records Administration

Haywood meanwhile had left the WMF to found the IWW.[19] During World War I, the IWW tried to sabotage the U.S. war effort. All leading Wobblies were arrested by the Wilson Administration under the Sedition Act of 1918 and went to prison. Moments after the sentencing of 95 Wobbies (including Haywood) at the Chicago Federal Building in 1918, a bomb ripped through the building, killing four.[20] Out on appeal in 1921, Haywood fled to Moscow, where he became a trusted adviser to the Bolshevik government.[21]

In 1921, after the Bolsheviks brutally crushed a wave of strikes, Haywood betrayed the workers, saying, "every genuine labor union in the United States ought to affiliate with the International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions with its central bureau at Moscow." Later renamed the World Federation of Labor Unions, this was the phony "union" created and controlled by the Kremlin to suppress workers' rights in the Soviet Union.[22]

See also


  1. William "Big Bill" Haywood (1869-1928), The West (PBS)
  2. J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998) ISBN 0684846179, p. 236
  3. Jamie H. Cockfield, Black Lebeda: The Russian Famine Diary of ARA Kazan District Supervisor J. Rives Childs, 1921-1923 (Mercer University Press, 2006), ISBN 088146015X, p. 91, fn. 50
  4. Douglas Linder, Western Federation of Miners, Bill Haywood Trial, Famous Trials
  5. James H. Peabody, "Gov. Peabody to the Voters," in Criminal Record of the Western Federation of Miners (Colorado Springs: Colorado Mine Operators' Association, 1904), p. 3 (PDF p. 9)
  6. Various authors, Illustrated History The State Of Idaho (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1899), pp. 438-439
  7. Inflation Calculator, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  8. Haywood complained of alleged "outrages that were perpetrated there by the Negro soldiers." J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998) ISBN 0684846179, p. 699
  9. "Wardner Rioters Arrested," The New York Times, May 4, 1899
  10. "Search for Wardner Rioters," The New York Times, May 5, 1899
  11. Jan Boles, Selections from the George L. Crookham, Jr., Papers, The Robert E. Smylie Archives, The College of Idaho
  12. "Orchard Tells Story of Bomb", The New York Times, June 7, 1907
  13. "Idaho's Great Trial About to Begin," The New York Times, April 21, 1907
  14. Hon. Ronald J. Wilper, "Trial Judge Fremont Wood: He Declared the Law as He Found It," The Advocate, December 2006, p. 18
  15. "The State's Case Against Haywood," The New York Times, June 23, 1907
  16. "Clarence Darrow Is Dead in Chicago," The New York Times, March 14, 1938
  17. Douglas Linder, Excerpts from Darrow's Summation in the Haywood Trial, Bill Haywood Trial, Famous Trials
  18. Haywood Goes Free, William "Big Bill" Haywood Trial: 1907, Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917, Law Library - American Law and Legal Information, jrank.org
  19. Harry Orchard, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1907), p. 192 (PDF p. 224)
  20. IWW Bomb Kills Four in Chicago," The New York Times, September 5, 1918; Charles Howard McCormick, Hopeless Cases: The Hunt for the Red Scare Terrorist Bombers (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2005) ISBN 0761831320, pp. 31-31
  21. Douglas Linder (2003), William D. Haywood, Famous Trials (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
  22. Israel Getzler, Kronstadt 1917-1921: The Fate of a Soviet Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2002) ISBN 0521894425, p. 233