Baby name story: Legal Tender

jacob coxey
Jacob Coxey and family (in 1914, not 1894)

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…)


Image: Jacob ‘General’ Coxey – LOC

2 thoughts on “Baby name story: Legal Tender

  1. This was quite interesting! In working on our family genealogy, I have found that we, too, have a Legal Tender! Her name was Legal Tender Johnson. She was born in 1895. There is debate about whether she was born in Arkansas or Indian Territory. It’s more likely to be Arkansas.

    I had been wondering why someone would give their child such an odd name. This explanation is as good as any! :)

    Thank you for sharing!

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