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Coxey's Army

Jacob S. Coxey formed Coxey’s Army and marched to Washington, DC in 1894, demanding Congress apportion funds to create jobs. He presented ‘A Petition in Boots’ as a publicity campaign to promote two bills in the U.S. Congress he supported. One bill was titled ‘The Non-interest Bearing Bond Bill’, and the other was ‘The Good Roads Bill.”

A view from Grant Park
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

Coxey’s experience with the nation’s roads convinced him they needed improvement. He also believed that non-interest bearing bonds would help the economy. During the World’s Fair in Chicago, he met Carl Brown, and they discussed these ideas. Brown agreed to assist him, and he solicited the American Federation of Labor and received their endorsement. Coxey founded the Good Roads Association of the United States. Both men obtained the support of Kansas Senator William A. Peffer, who introduced the bills in the Senate.

To promote public consciousness, Coxey declared himself a general and formed an army of the unemployed to march to the capital. Before the march, he went to Chicago to sell horses and finance his campaign with his creditors. While in Chicago, he recruited nearly a hundred unemployed Chicago workers to join his army during meetings at the 35th Precinct and Hyde Park Police Stations and various saloons.

Coxey’s Army left Massillon, OH on Easter Sunday night on March 25, 1894, with 86 marchers and 42 reporters. They were joined by the ‘Army of the Commonweal’ in West Virginia. Coxey and his family rode in open, horse-drawn carriages, and the marchers walked except for their ride on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. When they reached the Capitol Building their numbers had soared to 4,000, there were 12,000 more marchers waiting for them when they arrived.

To be continued…

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