|Name||Jacob S. Coxey|
Massillon, Ohio , United States
|| April 16, 1854
|Died||May 18, 1951
Dec 27, 2014 08:31pm
|Info||Jacob Sechler Coxey was born on April 16, 1854 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Growing up attending public school in Danville, until at the age 15, he decided to drop out of school to begin working at a steel mill. Coxey worked in the mill until he found a position as an operator on stationary engines, which led him to a short lived job running a scrap iron business. |
In need of change, Coxey decided to move to Massillon, Ohio in 1881, where he bought a sandstone quarry. Proving to be a huge success, Coxey started to expand his business into agricultural holdings, as well as buying a number of ranches and race horses. During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Coxey started to advocate support of the small working and unemployed Americans by the government. He did so as a member of the Greenback Party, a political party in opposition of the move from paper money to coin money, believing in a strong government controlled monetary system. Coxey ran for a seat in the Ohio State Senate in 1885, but fell short in an unsuccessful campaign.
Coxey then began working on plans for public works programs. Among these were plans for both the state and federal government to authorize rural road construction programs. The plan was to give unemployed workers the opportunity for work in constructing public roads, effectively taking control of transportation away from railroads and privately owned canals which benefited the rich at the expense of the poor. His plans would eventually be rejected. He later abandoned the Greenback Party and joined the Populist Party. The Populist Party was a short-lived political group that strongly opposed the idea of a gold standard, and was prominently made up of western farmers. Coxey, still fighting for change, met Carl Browne, who believed in his plans for road construction, and also had a talent for organizing social movements - a skill Coxey lacked. By the end of 1893, Jacob Coxey had become the wealthiest man in Massillon, worth an estimated quarter million dollars, having been reported paying $40,000 on a single horse, enough money during his time to employ 80 labor workers for a single year.
Armed with a partner, Coxey called for a national poor people’s campaign that would march on Washington D.C. and demand a national works program. Coxey, gaining the focus of the public eye, left Massillon with a small “army” in late spring of 1894. Coxey’s Army arrived in Washington D.C on May 1. Coxey’s second wife, his oldest son Jesse, his daughter Mamie, and his younger son Legal Tender arrived unexpectedly to show their support. Coxey himself predicted that he would arrive at Washington with 100,000 unemployed men, but never had more than 300 men on the road with him at any given time, and had only about 1000 men waiting for him in Washington made up of other “armies” who believed in his cause. These armies formed a diverse group of individuals such as Native Americans, women, and men both black and white who stood alongside Coxey until both he and Browne were arrested before he could deliver his speech, when he stepped on the grass of the Capitol lawn and was charged for trespassing. The pair spent 20 days in prison.
Many papers considered the march a national joke. As Carlos Schwantes noted in Coxey’s Army: An American Odyssey, a spectator of the ordeal was quoted saying “The Coxey Movement died out as rapidly as it started and within the year it is already a half forgotten episode. It is almost impossible to realize now the intensity of feeling it evoked... it is not probable its like will even be seen again. It was as unique as a stray comet...”
Coxey returned to Ohio where he was nominated by the People’s Party for the 18th district seat. The following year in 1895 and then in 1897 Coxey was nominated by the People’s Party to be the Governor of Ohio, but failed to win election. In 1916, Coxey ran for a seat in the United States Senate and again met disappointment. Six years later Coxey ran for the 18th district a second time as an independent against Republican Franklin Murphy, but was met with defeat. In 1924, Coxey decided to run for the 16th District seat against the Democrats to which he lost. Not accepting defeat, Coxey again tried for the 16th district seat running for the Republican Party two years later and lost. He later tried to join the U.S. Senate under the Republican Party where he was unsuccessful. Coxey continued to run for office and continued to fail until he served as the Mayor of Massillon from 1931 through 1934. During this time Coxey became a Presidential Candidate for the Farmer Labor Party both in 1932 then again in 1936 under the Union party.
In 1944, Jacob Coxey again made his march on Washington fifty years to the day of his original march on the Capitol, May 1. He returned to give the speech he had developed fifty years before. Though his marches may have not proved to be successful, Coxey did plant the seeds for change in the future of unemployment in America. Coxey and his wife celebrated their sixtieth anniversary on September 3, 1950. The following year Jacob Coxey died at age 97 on May 18, 1951.