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A march of the unemployed from Ohio to the U.S. Capitol, with journalists tagging along and reporting every detail, almost sounds like something out of today's headlines.

Yet the march of Coxey's Army actually took place in the spring of 1894, when hundreds of men put out of work following the Panic of 1893 set out walking to Washington. The goal of their organizer, Jacob Coxey, a prosperous businessman and progressive activist, was to gather thousands of followers along the way and demand that Congress create a federal jobs program.

Leaving Ohio on Easter Sunday 1894, the march followed the route of the old National Road, the first federal highway. Some newspapers sneeringly called the march a "hobo army," yet local people turned out to greet the marchers and bring food to their campsites.

On May 1, 1894 the 500 men who made it all the way to Washington marched to the Capitol as 10,000 spectators lined the streets. Jacob Coxey and others were arrested, and Coxey's Army couldn't get Congress to act.

Yet the march organized by Coxey influenced public opinion, and Coxey's Army was the precursor of modern protest marches.

Read the full story: Coxey's Army

Photograph: Marchers in Coxey's Army/Getty Images


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