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Coxey's Army


COXEY'S ARMY. During the depression following the panic of 1893, businessman and reformer Jacob Coxey of Massillon, Ohio, and his California associate Carl Browne designed a publicity march on Washington to support bills that would create new jobs. Coxeyled a march of the unemployed, followed by reporters, from Ohio to the capitol, demanding large issues of legal-tender currency and money for roads and public improvements. Coxey left Massillon on Easter Sunday, 1894, with about five hundred men and arrived in Washington in time for a great demonstration on May Day. His parade was cheered by an enormous crowd, but when he tried to speak from the Capitol steps he was arrested, fined, and sent to jail for carrying banners and walking on the grass on the Capitol grounds.

Other "industrial armies" formed By the unemployed on the Pacific coast and elsewhere decided to join Coxey in Washington. When the railroads refused to give them free rides on freight trains, they hijacked the trains. When local authorities were unable or unwilling to suppress them, federal judges filed injunctions against them. These were enforced by U.S. marshals or the army, setting precedents for the government's action against the Pullman strikers in July. About twelve hundred from Coxey's Army encamped in Washington until the District of Columbia finally paid their way home.

The Coxeyites, also known as Commonwealers or Industrials, demanded measures that were mainly Populist, and they were generally supported By the Populists and organized labor. Although they failed in their objectives, they were significant as symptoms of the economic unrest of the period and as an unusual type of Populist propaganda.


McMurry, Donald Le Crone. Coxey's Army: A Study of the Industrial Army Movement of 1894. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968. The original edition was published Boston: Little, Brown, 1929.

Schwantes, Carlos A. Coxey's Army: An American Odyssey. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.

Vincent, Henry. The Story of the Commonweal. New York: Arno Press, 1969.

Donald L.McMurry/h. s.

See alsoFinancial Panics ; Populism .

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