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William "Big Bill" Haywood Trial: 1907

The Coeur D'alene Strike, Haywood's Fate Rests On Orchard's Credibility

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.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917