From March 25 to May 1, 1894, wealthy socialist politician Jacob Coxey led a group of hundreds of unemployed men — “Coxey’s Army” — on a march from Massillon, Ohio, to Washington, D.C. Their aim? To demand that the U.S. government assist the unemployed by offering a subsidized labor program.
About a month before the march began, on February 26, Coxey had welcomed a baby boy. Given his unorthodox political views, and the fact that one of his personal mottoes was “there’s nothing wrong with this country that money won’t cure,” it isn’t too surprising that he named his son Legal Tender Coxey.
Legal Tender and the rest of the Coxey family met Jacob and the protesters in Washington, D.C., but the march was ultimately unsuccessful and Jacob was arrested. The family soon returned to Ohio.
Sadly, in 1901, Legal Tender Coxey died of scarlet fever.
But his father Jacob lasted until 1951 — long enough to see FDR’s New Deal programs (like the NRA) come into existence in the early 1930s, following the Great Depression.
Though Legal Tender’s name was unusual, it wasn’t unique; so far I’ve found 20 other people with the name. Most were also born in the 1890s. Two examples: Legal Tender Wise, born in Texas in 1895, and Legal Tender Wright, born in Ohio in 1896.
(The “Coxey’s Army” march occurred during the economic depression of the 1890s, which gave rise to the Free Silver movement, which I’ll post about soon…)
- “Coxey’s Son, Legal Tender, Dead.” New York Times 15 Feb 1901.
- Gipe, George A. “Rebel In A Wing Collar.” American Heritage 18.1 (1966): 25-29, 101.
- “Invasion that ended in rout.” New York Times 2 May 1894.
- Biography of Jacob Coxey – The Pennsylvania State University
- Massillon History: General Jacob S. Coxey – Massillon Museum
Image: Jacob ‘General’ Coxey – LOC