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Jacob S. Coxey

Jacob Seckler Coxey was a wealthy businessman, Ohio politician and populist leader who championed the unemployed during the 1894 Depression. In Chicago, he met Carl Brown who assisted him with his ideas. He also recruited unemployed Chicagoans to join Coxey’s Army in the first ever March on Washington, D.C.

A view of Chicago
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

Coxey, known as Jake and General Coxey, was born on April 16, 1854 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. When he was six years old, his family moved to Danville, PA. He was educated in the Danville public schools and was an excellent student. His first job was water boy at the iron rolling mill where his father was employed. He worked at the mill for eight years and was promoted to stationary engineer. He left that position to work in his uncle’s scrap metal firm. Then he married Carrie Coxey in 1874, and they were blessed with four children before divorcing in 1888. During his business trips for his uncle’s company, he traveled to Massillon, Ohio. He liked Massillon and moved there in May, 1881.

While in Massillon, Coxey opened a sand quarry and named his business Coxey Silica Sand Company. He also owned horse ranches in Massillon, Ohio; Lexington, Kentucky; and Guthrie, Oklahoma. He bred, raced and sold horses throughout the nation. He was an experienced equestrian and racing enthusiast. In 1891, he married Henrietta Jones, and they were blessed with two children. He and his second wife named their youngest son Legal Tender.

Coxey experienced life as a laborer, businessman and rancher, and his life was secure so he decided to devote time to improving the lives of workers and adjust the social order. He studied politics, economics and credit. He was then ready to recommend changes.

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