Archie Markland Baird. One of the additions to the manufacturing interests of Topeka, Archie Markland Baird has for many years been known in railroad circles of the state, and has been connected with numerous movements national in their character. His present business is the manufacture of pneumatic labor-saving devices. His knowledge of the business, his wide connections, and his executive capacity have brought his enterprise to a foremost and commanding position.
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Mr. Baird was born at Kilmarnock, near Glasgow, Scotland, in 1857, and is a son of William and Janet (Markland) Baird, and a grandson of Archibald Baird, also a native of that place. Archibald Baird had a family of twelve sons and one daughter, all of whom grew to maturity, and it is a remarkable fact that all of these sons learned the blacksmith trade from their father, and some of them later came to the United States and became officials in the mechanical departments of several railroads. The children of Archibald Baird were: Andrew I., David, John, William, Thomas, Hugh, James, Elisha, Robert, Adam, Joseph and Andrew II, and one daughter, Jean. Of these, Andrew I died in young manhood; David came to America in 1857, took employment with the New York & New Haven Railroad at Hartford, Connecticut, and was foreman of the blacksmith shops for forty-five years; John was employed by the same railroad company; Thomas remained in Scotland and became a prominent manufacturer of cotton spindles; and Andrew II became general foreman of the Illinois Central Railroad shops and served that company for forty-five years.
William Baird, the father of Archie M. Baird, was born in 1810, and when a young man married Janet Markland, of Stewarton, near Kilmarnock, Scotland. They had five children born to them: Janey, Belle, Sarah, Jessie and Archie, of whom the two latter survive, Jessie now being the wife of James Thompson, who was for thirty years master mechanic of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.
Archie Baird was eight years old when brought to the United States, the family settling at Chicago, Illinois, where the youth attended school until he was fourteen. He was more interested in mechanical things than in learning facts from books, and his father, recognizing this fact, apprenticed him to become a patternmaker, but a little later the youth decided to become a boilermaker and sheet iron worker and followed that trade for about six years. He was then offered a position at the Green Point Navy Yard, but a little later was called to Vincennes, Indiana, by the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, and, although but nineteen years old, accepted a big contract to reconstruct the boiler equipment of the road so as to be suitable for a standard gauge road. This line, having been reduced from a broad gauge of 60 inches to the standard gauge of 56½ inches, began operations under the new conditions after a period of six months. Mr. Baird states that on one Sabbath day 480 miles of the road was changed in this way.
Immediately after the completion of this contract, Mr. Baird was called to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad to take charge of the new and expensive boiler shops of the company, and held this position for four years. In 1882 Mr. Baird went to the Wabash Railroad to take charge of the office of superintendent of the boiler shops, and after holding this post for two years was offered and accepted the position of assistant to J. W. Williams, who had been made superintendent of the Union Iron and Steel Mills, at Chicago. This large plant was equipped for wire, plate, rails, merchant bars, and a full line of blast furnaces in which ore was melted and never reheated until it came out as railroad steel. This is what is known as direct process. There was also the very latest machinery which disposed of the hand hook process, all being handled by hydraulics and live rollers. Mr. Baird and his superior were two years in building this wonderful mill. In 1886 Mr. Baird was called to the shops of the Wisconsin Central & Northern Pacific, at Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he held the position of general foreman boilermaker for four years, and then, in 1890, was called to Topeka by John Player, who was superintendent of motive power of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and became general foreman of the shop. This position he held during a period of sixteen years. In 1906 he began to handle pneumatic hydraulic static devices, and in 1909 was sent by the company to Cotesville, Pennsylvania, to superintend the building of the new patented firebox, known as the Jacob Shupert box. He built 200 of these appliances and spent three months in testing and comparing them with the standard firebox. There were a number of university professors who assisted in the testing, and the box was finally accepted. Returning to Topeka, Mr. Baird took the position of safety boiler inspector of the whole Santa Fe system, instructing the different shop foremen so that these men would be able to fill the requirements of the new Federal laws. He then returned to his old position as general foreman boilermaker of the Santa Fe system, with headquarters at Topeka, and a little later was made assistant superintendent of the locomotive shops at Topeka, a capacity in which he acted until 1915. In that year he embarked in the manufacture of a full line of pneumatic labor-saving devices, and the business has grown to such an extent that its products now fill a fifty-page catalogue.
Mr. Baird was united in marriage, in 1877, with Miss Mary J. Lyons, of Chicago, Illinois, a daughter of Patrick Lyons of that city. Of the seven children born to them, the following are living: Mamie, who is the wife of I. S. Sheets, who is identified with the clerical department of the shops of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, at Topeka; Sadie, who is the wife of Fred J. Partridge, who is an an employee of the state in the office of Hon. Tom Bodkin, secretary of state of Kansas; and Mildred, a stenographer in the office of State Labor Commissioner McBride, and living at home with her parents. Mamie is a graduate of Saint Xavier College, Chicago; and Mildred and Sadie are graduates of Saint Mary’s Academy, at Leavenworth, Kansas.
Mr. Baird has taken no active part in public affairs, but like all good business men has accepted his share of the responsibilities of citizenship and is always eager to assist in the advancement of movements making for the general welfare, for the advancement of education or for the betterment of civic conditions. He is a thirty-second degree Mason and a Knight Templar and Shriner and has filled most of the chairs, and is also a member of organizations of railroad men. His family belongs to the Catholic Church, while Mr. Baird favors Presbyterian doctrines.