Coxey, Jacob Sechler

Coxey, Jacob Sechler kŏkˈsē [key], 1854–1951, American social reformer, b. Selinsgrove, Pa. He began his career as a stationary engineer, later turning to the scrap-iron business and then to sandstone quarrying in Massillon, Ohio. Interested in the problem of the unemployed, he advocated public works, financed by fiat money, as a remedy. He was Republican mayor (1931–33) of Massillon but was an unsuccessful candidate for many major public offices, including the presidency in 1932 and 1936. He was most famous, however, as the leader of Coxey's Army, a band of jobless men who marched to Washington, D.C., following the Panic of 1893, to petition Congress for measures that they hoped would relieve unemployment and distress. Coxey was aided by Carl Browne, a skilled agitator with curious religious notions. By wide advertising Coxey gathered more than 100 men and left Massillon with them on Easter Sunday, 1894, intending to reach Washington for a May Day demonstration. The “army,” named the Commonweal of Christ by Browne, was met by crowds in every city through which it passed. It had an anticlimactic and ineffectual ending when, reaching Washington with c.500 men instead of the proclaimed 100,000, its leaders were arrested for walking on the Capitol lawn. Coxey's was only one of several industrial “armies” that in those months started from different sections of the country for the capital.

See D. L. McMurry, Coxey's Army (1929, repr. 1970).

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