The many names of Baird T Spalding – Part 1
Previous articles on Baird T Spalding’s date of birth have shed light on some of the many stories surrounding him. Now that his place and date of birth are established, it is possible to examine other claims made for Spalding. One of the most interesting areas of research is the different names he assumed over the years, and the claims made for his ancestry.
The Department of State recently released Spalding’s 1935 passport application and an affidavit of birth signed by his brother. As discussed in my earlier blog post on Spalding’s biography, Baird was an American, born Oct 3rd 1872 in Cohocton, New York. The passport application reveals a fascinating new twist. Spalding was born with the name Bayard Spaulding, and the adoption of the nom de plume Baird T Spalding occurred decades later.
Despite initial skepticism that Bayard Spaulding was really New Age author Baird T Spalding, there is no doubt that this is the passport application of our subject. The application was filed in September 1935, just before Spalding left for his famous India Tour. Spalding’s photograph is attached, as well as his address at the time in San Francisco. His planned departure for India on the SS President Hoover on Oct 4th confirms it beyond a doubt.
By the 1890’s, Spalding had left New York for the gold fields of the Yukon and was going by the name William Spaulding. In 1899, Spalding was arrested in Dawson City, and a Canadian consul record lists him as William Spaulding, but notes incorrectly that he is a British subject. This may be the origin of the stories that Spalding was of British descent, discussed previously on this blog. In 1906, Spalding was working in Montana under his birth name Bayard T Spaulding, now with the added middle initial.
The first use of the surname Spalding by which the public would come to know him appears on the 21st of October 1910 in a rural Californian newspaper article from the Lassen Advocate, in which Spalding is claimed to be a professor from Columbia University.
B.T. Spalding a professor in the Columbia University, is in Susanville gathering data concerning soil and crop conditions in this section and will remain several weeks.
The trip to Susanville is meaningful in more ways than one. Close to California’s legendary Mount Shasta, Susanville was the home of Spalding’s future wife, Stella Stiles. They were married in October of the following year, and from this point Spalding continues to use the name Baird T Spalding almost exclusively.
There is no evidence that Spalding ever legally changed his name, and it is difficult to determine the logic behind which name he used. In addition to Baird Spalding and William Spalding, David Bruton’s biography claims that he also used the name Baird T Grey.
After 1906, my research has only located a single instance of Spalding using his original birth name, and that is his 1935 passport application discussed above. Close examination of the hand written sections shows that Baird still signed his name as Spalding. On a birth affidavit signed by his brother Hiram Spaulding, the additional ‘u’ in Spaulding appears to have been added afterwards. Ironically Baird’s surname was often spelled by third parties as Spaulding even when he was using the Spalding variant, and it appears this mistake was made by Spalding himself as he had been using that name for decades.
Baird T. Spalding was in reality Baird T. Spalding III. His father was Baird Spalding II and his grandfather, to whom he was very close, was Baird Spalding the first. Baird III always spoke of him as “Grandpappy” and it seems he really had been born in India.
A similar story appears in David Bruton’s 1954 biography Baird T Spalding As I Knew Him, although the details are slightly changed.
John Spalding, grandfather of Baird T Spalding, lived the greater part of his life in India. He was a devout follower of the Hindu teachings.
These two stories have become the foundation of much of the apocryphal information around Spalding, implying that Spalding had a family connection to India, and that the voyage to India that led to Life and Teachings was inspired by the travels of his father or grandfather.
In the second part of this series on Baird T Spalding’s life, we’ll examine Spalding’s family history in detail and examine the truth of these stories.