Eighteen ninety-three was an awful year; 1894 was worse. Some 1,400 strikes were called. Workers were protesting low wages and poor working conditions. Then along came Jacob Coxey. He was a Civil War veteran, a farmer, a quarry owner, and a devout Christian. He thought the government should help its out-of-work citizens find jobs. So, in 1894when things had gotten really badhe marched an army of unemployed men from Massillon, Ohio, to Washington, D.C. Democratic President Grover Cleveland refused to see them. The police arrested Coxey for walking on the grass outside the Capitol. The President ordered the National Guard to disperse the men who had led the nation's first protest march on Washington. An outraged newspaper, the Topeka Advocate, had this to say: "These men have as much right to go to Washington and demand justice at the hands of Congress as bankers, railroad magnates, and corporation lawyers have to go and lobby for measures by which to plunder the public."
That summer, the highly profitable Pullman Car Company cut workers' wages for the fifth time. George Pullman's company made railroad sleeping cars in a town near Chicago. When the company cut wages, it didn't cut the fees it charged workers for rent, heat, and lights, or to use the company church. The workers were angry, and went on strike. Soon the strike spread to 50,000 workers throughout the railroad industry. Federal troops were sent to take action against the workers and the union, which led to violence, death, and arrests.