Date of Award

Spring 1973

Document Type




First Advisor

William Lang

Second Advisor

James Gross

Third Advisor

Dennis Wiedmann


"By what authority," asked House Speaker Charles F. Crisp, do you, Jacob Sechler Coxey, "represent sixty-five million people"? Jacob S. Coxey, the self-styled representative of the American people, demanded that Congress hear him and pass his legislation, for he claimed that his will was the will of the people. When the hearing was denied, Coxey denounced Congress for refusing "to grant the rights of the American people." The "people" in this instance, were the arm- 2 ies of the unemployed. Coxey in no way represented sixty-five million people, nor did he represent the four million unemployed. But for nearly eight years, Coxey has been known as the leader of the unemployed armies- who marched on Washington in 1894. It is the purpose of this paper to show that Coxey was only a symbol, not a leader, to those armies. It was his idea of marching to Congress with his demands that appealed to the unemployed, not the demands he intended to make. Armies of the unemployed marched to Washington from the west coast, the mid-west, the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the mid-Atlantic states. As these armies cannot be explained in terms of the traditional view of Coxeyism, neither can they be explained in terms of sectionalism. The scope of this paper is limited to a study of the Armies of the Pacific Northwest, whose demands varied among these five groups of marchers. Little has been written about the Armies of Montana, Oregon and Washington, and they have for the most part been misunderstood. They have been called "militant", "dangerous", and "turbulent", when actually they were unarmed, submissive to authority, and lawless only as a last resort. Their most outstanding characteristic, persistent determination, has been all but forgotten. These five armies are remembered primarily for their train stealing episodes, but an examination of their situations and the catastrophic nineties may persuade us to refrain from branding them as thieves.