One of his better known creations was Charlemane the lion. He wrote The Art of the Puppet (1965) and also provided the puppets for Dark Shadows. Baird also created the expandable nose Peter Noone wore as Pinocchio in the 1968 musical adaptation of the Carlo Collodi story that aired on NBC as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. Baird's choice of his professional name inspired Termite Terrace cartoon writer Edward Stacey Pierce III to add a second "D" to his own professional name, calling himself Tedd Pierce.
Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, Baird grew up in Mason City, Iowa. Baird traced his love of puppets to the moment when his father made him a simple string puppet when he was eight. In 1921, he attended a local performance of the Tony Sarg production of “Rip Van Winkle”, which cemented his interest. By the time he was fourteen, Baird was creating his own puppets and giving performances in the attic of his parent's home.
In 1934, Baird formed his own company, the Baird Marionettes. Their first performance was at the Chicago’s World’s Fair.
In 1951, Baird's Marionettes performed some of the roles in the Broadway musical Flahooley, a fantasy about a mass-produced laughing doll who unintentionally threatens the American industrial system.
In a career that spanned over 60 years, Baird and his puppets performed for millions. They toured Russia, appeared in "The Lonely Goatherd" sequence in the film The Sound of Music (1965), as well as in the ABC-TV 1958 television special Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf, graced many World's Fairs, and were part of five Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades. During the 1964/65 World's Fair in New York City, Baird's Marionettes hosted "The Show-Go-Round", an elaborate musical exhibit in the Chrysler Pavilion.
Baird was a recipient of a multitude of awards and honors, including the Medal of Achievement -awarded by the Lotos Club of New York,, Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa, and was honored in 1980 by the Union International de la Marionette and Puppeteers of America at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Bil Baird's children Laura and Peter contracted to sell nearly all of the Bil Baird Marionettes at auction. This 800 lot auction sale was held at The Greenwich Auction Room over 2 days. Jesse Bien was the auctioneer. Peter Baird, Paddy Blackwood and other puppeteers exhibited the marionettes with each pull of a puppet string eliciting another bid from the audience. Marionettes depicting Elsie the Cow and her family were desired by many but sold to a Pennsylvania toy dealer. Prize lot, Olly Oilcan from the 1939 Chicago World's Fair sold for an astonishing $11,000.00.
In December of 1988 Bil Baird's Marionettes played at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York. The play "Pinocchio", from the book by Jerome Coopersmith was produced by Arthur Cantor, and performed by puppeteers Peter B Baird, Pady Blackwood, Randy Carfagno, Larry Engler, William Tost and Richard Weber. Mary Rogers was the composer and Sheldon Harnick wrote the lyrics. (Playbill Vol.88 No.12).