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E P I L O G U E The Crusade Continued “To him must come some sense of satisfaction of having lived to see the government adopt his plan of putting the unemployed to work on public projects.”1 1949 WHBC radio tribute to Coxey A F T E R T H E F I N A L M E L E E on Capitol Hill, Coxey sat quietly in his small, barren jail cell. The successful Gilded Age businessman wrote to a prominent attorney back in his hometown of Massillon, acknowledging the good mattress and nice feather pillow that Mrs. Coxey had brought him so he could sleep more comfortably. He noted how, though “imprisoned for an idea,” he found himself “just as busy in jail as outside of it.” In their shared cell Carl Browne still nursed some wounds from the brutal clubbing at the hands of District policemen. He welcomed Baker, his newfound reporter friend, who came to return Browne’s broken necklace retrieved from the Capitol grounds. With blood still matted into his long hair from the fracas, Browne told Baker,“You’re the only friend I’ve got left in the world.”The two would remain in touch in the coming years.In his memoirs Baker would note that Browne wrote to him frequently,signing always,“The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.”2 Having walked some four hundred miles from Massillon to reach Washington , Baker was now glad to be boarding the train back to Chicago. He wrote to his father that he was just “terribly tired of the whole infernal business.” In short, he admitted, he did not have anything more left to say about the march. He departed from Washington in frustration. However, the soon-to-be famous muckraker and ultimate confidant to President Woodrow Wilson would later reflect on his defining journalistic experience. Years later Baker recalled the Commonweal’s triumphal procession through Pittsburgh and wondered whether there had ever been anything quite like it before. He had enjoyed the camaraderie of the marchers and disagreed with those who took a condescending attitude toward them: The Crusade Continued 111 To call them an army of “bums, tramps and vagabonds,” as some of the commentators were doing, was a complete misrepresentation. A considerable proportion were genuine farmers and workingmen whose only offense was the fact that they could not buy or rent land—having no money—or find a job at which they could earn a living. And yet, Baker mused, it was as if Coxey and Browne believed in “magic— the magic power centered in Washington.” He concluded,“So far as I could see the power at Washington had scarcely fluttered an eyelid.”3 Though Baker accurately assessed official Washington’s indifference to Coxey’s cause, he and the other reporters had clearly opened the public’s eyes to the essential humanity of the unemployed. Though in the years immediately following the march governments would remain slow to act, Coxey and his industrial army had generated momentum toward a broader understanding of an inconvenient truth of industrial society. Three years after the march, when Walter Wyckoff began publishing a series of articles about his own eighteen-month tramping experience for Scribner’s Magazine , it was reviewed not only with acclaim but also with sympathy toward its tramp protagonists. Wyckoff’s work occupied a prominent space in an already growing tramp literature. In an April 3, 1898, Chicago Tribune pagelong review, Louis De Foe noted the enormous physical and mental hardships endured by what Wyckoff referred to as the“army of the unemployed.” De Foe concluded that, though Wyckoff had encountered compassion for his assumed jobless condition, there were few government or private initiatives designed to help alleviate it.4 Indeed, governments remained slow to acknowledge this new challenge. One exception, however, was the emergence of so-called job exchanges. Initially, most of the early clearinghouses were operated privately. But they quickly became subject to manipulation and profiteering. Thus, increasingly state governments entered the fray, interestingly beginning with Coxey’s home state of Ohio in 1891. By the time America entered World War I, half the states had their own state-run employee exchanges. In the chaotic job market that existed in Gilded Age America, these new mechanisms served to match the jobless with local employers.Far less expensive than public-works programs, these bureaus gained strength from union support. Union bosses saw these state exchanges, many of which they helped to...


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MARC Record
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