Biography and History

Ray Stannard Baker (1870-1946) was a journalist, editor, and author. He earned recognition for his articles on liberal reform, for his philosophical essays written under the pseudonym David Grayson, and for his authorized biography and other works on President Woodrow Wilson. He worked at the News-Record in Chicago, McClure's magazine, American Magazine, and as an independent author.

Baker was born on April 17, 1870 in Lansing, Michigan to Joseph Stannard Baker and Alice (Potter) Baker. Baker received a B.S. degree from Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing in 1889. After working at his father's real estate business, Baker returned to college, entering the University of Michigan for law school in 1892. He shifted his study to literature and studied journalism under Fred Newton Scott, leaving the university after a semester to pursue a career in journalism.

His first job in the field of journalism was in 1892 as a cub reporter at the Chicago News-Record, an independent newspaper. His coverage of a restaurant strike earned him a promotion to a regular staff job. He continued to report on strikes and labor unrest, crime, and the plight of the urban poor, and his coverage of the march of Coxey's army, a labor group, in 1894 earned him an editorship at the News-Record. While at the News-Record, Baker also began writing independently for periodicals.

In 1897, Baker joined the staff of McClure’s magazine, which was at the forefront of a new style of journalism that emphasized critical investigative reporting that became known as "muckraking." He was managing editor of McClure's Syndicate from 1897 to 1898 and associate editor of McClure's magazine from 1899 to 1905. He also continued his freelance work and traveling the country and abroad. Baker was the author of many articles on social and economic problems, as seen from a liberal viewpoint, with the purpose of exposing corruption and instigating reform. He earned a national reputation for his writings on industrial relations, including coverage of strikes and working conditions. In 1906, after internal conflict at McClure's, Baker and several other journalists, including John S. Phillips, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida M. Tarbell, left and purchased the American Magazine, where he continued to write progressively on social and political issues. He was the editor of American Magazine from 1906 to 1915.

Beginning in 1899, Baker also began writing and publishing books. His works include Boys' Book of Inventions (1899), Seen in Germany (1901), Following the Color Line (1908), The Spiritual Unrest (1910), and The New Industrial Unrest (1920). His greatest popularity as a writer, however, was under the pseudonym of David Grayson. These books, collections of philosophical essays on various aspects of nature from the point of view of a farmer, include Adventures in Contentment (1907), Adventures of Friendship (1910), The Friendly Road (1913), Adventures in Understanding (1925), and Adventures in Solitude (1931). Baker also wrote his autobiography, in two volumes: Native American (1941) and American Chronicle (1945).

In 1918, Baker served as Special Commissioner of the State Department in Great Britain, France, and Italy. In this capacity, he traveled through Europe, meeting with statesmen and leaders of liberal movements and reporting on potentially disruptive radicals in those countries. In 1919, Baker served as Director of the Press Bureau of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at the Paris Peace Conference, a role that essentially made him the President's press secretary. This began an association with Wilson that would last for the rest of Baker's life. Baker became a strong advocate of Wilson's work as a peacemaker and especially of the League of Nations. Baker wrote What Wilson Did at Paris in 1919 and in 1922 published a three-volume work entitled Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement to describe Wilson's struggles to establish a lasting peace. Baker also co-editing the six volume The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson with William E. Dodd, published from 1925 to 1927. Wilson asked Baker, shortly before his death, to write his authorized biography. Baker spent fifteen years on the biography; the first two volumes of Woodrow Wilson: Life and Letters appeared in 1927 and six additional volumes were published during the next twelve years, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1940.

Baker married Jessie Irene Beal, the daughter of his former college botany professor, on January 1, 1896. They had four children: Alice Beal (Hyde), James Stannard, Roger Denio and Rachel Moore (Napier). Baker died on July 12, 1946 in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Source: From the finding aid for MC004

  • Ray Stannard Baker Papers. 1887-1944 (inclusive), 1909-1919 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC004

    Ray Stannard Baker (1870-1946) was a journalist, editor, and author. He earned recognition for his articles on liberal reform, for his philosophical essays written under the pseudonym David Grayson, and for his authorized biography and other works on President Woodrow Wilson. Baker's papers contain materials collected for his biography of President Woodrow Wilson and related to the Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920), which he attended as Director of the American Press Bureau, and include correspondence, publications, photographs, and newspaper clippings.

  • Ray Stannard Baker Papers. 1887-1944 (inclusive), 1909-1919 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC004

    Ray Stannard Baker (1870-1946) was a journalist, editor, and author. He earned recognition for his articles on liberal reform, for his philosophical essays written under the pseudonym David Grayson, and for his authorized biography and other works on President Woodrow Wilson. Baker's papers contain materials collected for his biography of President Woodrow Wilson and related to the Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920), which he attended as Director of the American Press Bureau, and include correspondence, publications, photographs, and newspaper clippings.