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Legacy of Coxey's Army

After Coxey’s Army marched 400 miles through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland to Washington, the protestors numbered more than 16,000. Coxey was arrested by U.S. Marshals for trespassing on public property, and his army disbanded. Both President Grover Cleveland and Congress refused to pass the bills Coxey supported.

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Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

During his political career, Coxey ran in various elections as a Democrat, an Independent, a Republican and a member of the People’s Party. The People’s Party nominated him for the 18th District Ohio Congressional seat, but he lost the election. He participated in Ohio gubernatorial races twice, for the U.S. Senate and in two presidential elections. The only election he ever won was for mayor of Massillon in 1931.

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which Coxey opposed, motivated him to plan a second march on Washington in 1914, but it failed to attract any support outside Ohio.

Many of Coxey’s ideas were the basis for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs from 1933-1938. He discussed the establishment of the WPA with President Roosevelt, who expanded Coxey’s positions. Growing an economy by reducing interest rates and the development of the U.S. interstate highway system can be traced to Coxey.

Jacob S. Coxey died on May 18, 1951 at the age of 97. He lightheartedly credited his long life to his homemade tonics and to never resisting temptation.

The daring, romantic idealism of Coxey’s March inspired authors and playwrights. L. Frank Baum, who observed the march, symbolized the issues of his time in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. “The Driver” by Garet Garrett and “Two Thousand Stiffs” by Jack London were inspired by Coxey’s Army. Inherit the Wind, a play by Lawrence and Lee, refers to Coxey’s Army.

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