March 28: Weary and Worn

From The San Francisco Call - March 29, 1894     

On March 29, The San Francisco Call carried wire reports from across the country, covering the march and those who were traveling to participate in it.

From the headlines:


Coxey’s Ragged Army Is Straggling On.


They Were Prepared to Snowball the Soldiers.


So Far the Deserters Along the Line Far Outnumber the New Recruits.

Alliance, Ohio, March 28.— Coxey’s army broke camp, after a good night’s rest on clean straw and a plentiful breakfast of fried ham and pork, bread and coffee, at 9 o’clock this morning, with 193 men in line by actual count.

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March 27: Lacks But Two Of A Hundred

From The New York Times - March 28, 1894     

It has been two days since the march began, and Coxey’s Army of the unemployed is still in Stark County, Ohio.  The army has picked up some new members, but they have also lost quite a few.  And Jacob Coxey is gone; he’s headed to Chicago.  Meanwhile, some deserters have already made it as far west as Richmond, Indiana.  And politicians are starting to comment on the march.

ALLIANCE, Ohio, March 27.

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March 26, 1894: Coxey’s Army is Straggling Along

From The New York Times - March 27, 1894     

Coxey’s Army left Massillon, Ohio on March 25, 1894.  By March 26, there were troubles. From The New York Times:

Last Night the Soldiers Slept in a Police Station – Discontent Brewing.

CANTON, Ohio, March 26. — When the sun rose on Camp Lexington this morning not a soldier of the Commonweal Army was visible. The cold weather had driven them all out of their big tent during the night.

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March 25, 1894: Coxey’s Army on the Move

From The New York Times - March 26, 1894     

On March 25, 1894, Jacob Coxey and his 75 member army stepped off from Massillon, Ohio on their march to Washington D.C.  By the time they reached Canton, about eight miles away, the number had reached 50.  The New York Times reported that Coxey’s life insurance policy had been revoked, with “officials of the company fearing that he may meet with a violent end in his present enterprise,” and that “everyone regarded the affair as a huge joke.”  However, recently having found ten Times articles on Coxey’s Army from March 1894 alone, I don’t think anyone could argue the fact that Jacob Coxey certainly knew how to use the media.…
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Coxey Lays Depression to ‘Dumbness’ of Congress

From The Pittsburg Press - January 5, 1931    

General Jacob S. Coxey, organizer of the first army of the unemployed, blamed the business depression on Congress as he visited Pittsburgh today.

“It isn’t because the members of Congress are crooked,” he said. “It’s because they’re dumb. They don’t know what it’s all about.”

Coxey explained that he was en route to Washington for another attempt to get his bill for the alleviation of unemployment and business inertia before Congress.

Read the Pittsburg Press article…
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In dreams, he sees an army. Then Coxey awakes, and sees only fifty tramps.

From The New York Times - March 25, 1894     

The New York Times ran a number of wire service reports immediately before Coxey’s Army left Massillon, Ohio on March 25, 1894. Coming from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., the tone of the writing can best be described as bewildered amusement.

It is claimed by Marshal Browne that nearly fifty recruits have arrived in Massillon, but up to last night, none of them had been discovered, and reputable Massillonians asserted that the arrivals were all in the mind of the the “Seer and Prophet” as the Marshal styles himself. 

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Mr Coxey’s attempt to storm the Capitol

From the archives of The Guardian - May 2, 1894     

In the meantime numerous police, both mounted and on the floor, had assembled at the east part of the Capitol, where Coxey had declared his party would assemble. On reaching the street skirting the Capitol grounds to the north the procession found that the police barred the entrance. Coxey thereupon alighted from his buggy and jumped over the wall of the Capitol grounds, being followed by Browne.

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The protest that made Occupy DC possible

Sam Chaltain -     

Chaltain ties the Occupy DC protest of 2011 to the Coxey’s Army march of 1894.  Notable is the mention of the Capital Grounds Act, a measure used to silence political speech in Washington D.C.

At the time of the parade, the United States was in the second year of a major economic depression and millions of Americans were unemployed; Coxey believed he had the answer to the nation’s economic woes. He proposed that the federal government issue $500 million in treasury bonds, that it apply those funds to initiate a massive program to build up the nation’s roads, and that it hire an army of workers, all of who would be guaranteed eight-hour days and daily wages of $1.50.

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The speech Jacob Coxey (almost) never gave

When participants in Coxey’s Army (estimated at 500 people) reached Washington on May 1, 1894, having started their march in Massillon, Ohio, they were met by 1500 soldiers, with more on call in case of trouble.  When Jacob Coxey went to speak, he was arrested for walking on the grass.

It is particularly interesting to think that he was arrested while reading the first two paragraphs…

May 1, 1894

The Constitution of the United States guarantees to all citizens the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, and furthermore declares that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.

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