"Coxey's Army" was a group of protesters who marched from Ohio to Washington, D.C., to lobby the government for a greater response to the nearly 20% unemployment rate. The "army" is often regarded as the first protest march to the nation's capital.
Photograph courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On March 25, 1894, more than 100 men and women in Massillon, Ohio, began what is now regarded as the first protest march to Washington, D.C. The men, mostly unemployed laborers, were led by businessman and aspiring politician Jacob Coxey. They quickly became known as “Coxey’s Army.”
     
    The United States was suffering through the worst economic depression it had ever known. The so-called “Panic of 1893,” caused by the over-financing of railroads (a financial “bubble”) led to an unemployment rate of nearly 20%. Coxey’s Army urged the federal government to create public jobs, such as building roads, for the thousands of destitute, unemployed workers.
     
    The ranks of Coxey’s Army swelled as it moved east. As many as 6,000 marchers camped out at a farm site near Washington, D.C., waiting to make their appeal to Congress. Coxey and other protest leaders were arrested for walking on the grass near the Capitol building. Lacking leadership, the marchers dissipated without forcing any action from the government. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    appeal Noun

    request for assistance, support, or aid.

    aspire Verb

    to hope for something.

    bubble Noun

    period of financial speculation in which the price of a commodity is inflated far beyond its real value. Bubbles "burst" when investors become aware of the over-financing and the price drops.

    Capitol Noun

    official building used by the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

    depression Noun

    period of economic hardship, when employment and wages are low, and the value of businesses declines.

    destitute Adjective

    very poor.

    dissipate Verb

    to scatter and disappear.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    politician Noun

    person who serves as a representative of the citizens of a geographic area to the local, state, or national government.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    public Adjective

    available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.

    regard Verb

    to consider or pay attention to.

    suffer Verb

    to endure pain or loss.

    unemployment Noun

    state of not having a job.