When Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey led his great march of jobless men on Washington, DC, in 1894 to deliver what he described as a petition with boots on, all the powers that be trembled; and when his march ended in fiasco, its leaders jailed for walking on the grass, all the detractors laughed. Approaching the familiar story from the angle of reporters and giving respect and attention to Coxey’s ideas, Jerry Prout has produced a narrative worth walking quite a distance for.

Readers will find a deep sympathy for those thrown out of work in a depression that state and national governments did little more than try to wish away, at least where the jobless were concerned. In Coxey and his hangers-on, they will find freakish millenarians, theosophists, and leather-lunged blatherskites like Carl Browne, but also thinkers convinced that a jobs...

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