April 16 Jacob Coxey is born

April 16, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1854. 

That was the day wealthy Populist and labor advocate Jacob Coxey was born. 

He grew up in Danville, Pennsylvania and worked as a stationary engineer in an iron mill. 

Soon, he moved to Ohio and opened a sand quarry. 

He entered politics and initially campaigned as a candidate for the Greenback Party. 

By the 1890s he had thrown his lot in with the Populists. 

When the Panic of 1893 hit, workers flooded the industrial Midwest in search of jobs. 

Cities across the country were overwhelmed with the newly unemployed, begging on the streets. 

Coxey proposed a Good Works Bill, which demanded $500 million for federal jobs. 

He supported paper currency, public works projects, transportation for rural areas and full employment. 

He decided to take his proposal directly to Congress by organizing a protest march on behalf of the unemployed. 

Hundreds joined him on his march from Ohio to Washington D.C., forming Coxey’s Army.

They set off from Massillon, Ohio on Easter Sunday 1894, supported by Populists and organized labor. 

Estimates of marchers ranged into the tens of thousands. 

His army was stopped along the way by court injunctions preventing them from commandeering trains and seizing railway lines as they traveled. 

About 500 eventually reached Washington D.C. 

As Coxey climbed the steps of the Capitol to demand the Good Jobs Bill, he and his Army were met by police forces, which attacked the crowd and beat them back from the Capitol steps. 

Years later, his campaigning finally paid off and he was elected Mayor of Massillon. 

In 1944, he was invited back to the Capitol to deliver his Good Jobs Bill, which by that time had become official policy.


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