Dec 20, 2008

Big Bill Haywood

I was browsing through the Bain News Service archive at the Library of Congress and found this picture of Big Bill Haywood. It's one I'd never seen before, so I thought I'd put it on the blog. (He's the large man in the center, wearing a Stetson hat.) Haywood* was the leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1905 until the early '20's.
I don't have a local connection for this picture, except maybe for the following anecdote:
When I was a little kid, I remember seeing an old revival preacher who told great stories. Not only great stories, but ones I'd never heard before. Many evangelists back then, in 1970's Harford County, got their most sensational stuff from reruns of Dragnet, but this guy had new material, or so I thought. It was a decade later, when reading up on my labor history, that I realized that the old preacher had been telling stories from the Red Scare of 1917. (Did I mention this guy was really old?) His stories were all thinly veiled (and highly embroidered), accounts of Emma Goldman, Joe Hill, Carlo Tresca, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and the like. He hadn't updated his sermon for more than half a century. I was sitting through a historical reenactment and didn't even know it.
The story I remember relating to Haywood was about a union leader who was an unbeliever, but had a devout wife who argued religion with him every day for 20 years. I can't remember the moral of the story, whether the man got converted, or whether it was more along the lines of the devil being able to quote scripture better than anyone, but there is a grain of truth to it. Haywood's wife was devout, a devout Christian Scientist, and she did argue with him incessantly about religion, but he never converted, nor did he quote the scriptures very often. What he did, was move out of the house, which, when you think about it, is a pretty good moral too.

*For more info on this topic, pick up a copy of "Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood." It's a good read.