When Dr. Joshua L. Baily, Jr. became President of the San Diego Historical Society in 1945, no one was more surprised than himself. Although aware that his name had been mentioned as a prospect to succeed the late Leroy Wright, he campaigned vigorously for Don Stewart, asking all his own friends and acquaintances to vote f or Stewart and not for himself. Those who kept their promises not to vote for him did it by staying away from the election completely, and allowing the rest of the pro-Baily votes to hold the day.
Joshua L. Baily, Jr. and Ruth Ingersoll Robinson were married in San Diego on February 19. 1917. Mrs. Baily was the daughter of Mrs. Martha Ingersoll Robinson, one of the most successful real estate women in San Diego history. So powerful was Mrs. Robinson’s influence in the community that at one time she was strongly urged from several quarters to run for mayor an importunement which she resisted.
During Dr. Baily’s term as President of the San Diego Historical Society, Mrs. Baily was nominated to the Board of Directors by one of the Society’s best-known past presidents, Edgar Hastings. As Dr. Baily recalls, “it was quite a surprise to Ruth.” Quiet and retiring by nature, she nevertheless served two terms on the Board, attended all its meetings and fulfilled all other obligations of membership.
No job was ever too large for heror too menial.
Dr. Baily, a former research associate at the San Diego Natural History Museum, is a noted biologist and a foremost authority on snails and other mollusks. Even in retirement, he continues today to spend much of his time in research and study. His private library, built up over many years, is magnificent in scope and organization.
On the subject of libraries, Dr. Baily recalls his unhappy experience as President of the Whitney Library, a research collection begun in 1922, and designed to serve the museums and scientific organizations of the community. The Whitney began with great promise and a substantial fund for the collection of scientific works. It ended sadly, with the collection being divided up among several organizations according to subject matterthe result of insufficient care and attention to carrying out the provisions of its charter. “I would hope,” says Dr. Baily, “that nothing would ever be allowed to happen to the Historical Society’s fine research collections on San Diego history.”
Mrs. Baily had a particular interest in local history, having come to San Diego at an early age from Peoria, Illinois, via Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She attended San Diego schools, and studied for three years at Mills College, Oakland, becoming an ardent supporter of the Mills College Alumni Association. She was a member of the League of University Women and of the Floral Association, winning many prizes for her arrangements at local floral shows.
Although Dr. Baily could never be described as garrulous, he opens up readily on the subject of the 48 years of his life spent with the former Ruth Robinson. Shared interests and experiences took them across Europe as well as to all 48 of the contiguous United States, including five special trips to witness solar eclipses.
When reminiscing about this 48-year idyll, Dr. Baily pauses at times, and a far-off, pensive, misty expression fills Ms eyes as he momentarily relives an experience; this will be followed by a broad, beaming smile and a colorful verbal description of a vignette from his life with the kind, considerate, and generous person who was his wife.
When Ruth Robinson Baily died in 1965, the San Diego Historical Society was one of several benefactors of her estate. She felt that the Society should have an endowment fund which would provide a basic, assured income f or as long as the Society should endure. Dr. Baily himself, during his tenure as President, had spearheaded a movement to establish a separate endowment fund into which life memberships, legacies, and similar money-type gifts should be placed.
Beyond the knowledge that the Society’s purpose and its work were important to Mrs. Baily, one might well wonder whether there were other motives for her generosity. Anyone who knows Dr. Joshua Baily, and who but pauses a moment to reflect upon the devotion which Ruth Robinson Baily felt toward the organization of which her husband was a President, can hardly escape the thought that her generosity toward the San Diego History Center was her own private way of stretching 48 years into forever.
To Dr. Joshua L. Baily, Jr., and to the memory of Ruth Robinson Baily, the San Diego History Center warmly and gratefully dedicates this issue of the Journal of San Diego History.