The Northern Pacific Railroad Depot, now the Amtrak Station, was the site of two events in the dramatic labor history of Spokane.
In April of 1894, "under the flare of gasoline torches," unemployed workers from all over the Inland Northwest gathered, prepared to travel to Washington, D.C. to protest the policies of Congress and President Grover Cleveland. "Going to Washington to See Grover" and "On to Washington," they chanted. "In Spokane, several thousand men and a sprinkling of women were preparing to join Jacob Coxey and other protesters" at the nation's capital.
The second event occurred the same week in April 1894 when 65 members of Coxey's Army were sealed in boxcars for 18 hours and began calling out for food and water. The unemployed men had been arrested in Yakima and were being sent to Seattle for trial through Spokane. The train made a stop at the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. Their cries for food and water attracted nearly 3,000 worker sympathizers, both men and women. Additional deputies were called in to squelch the crowd as the police chief and city officials grappled with the situation.
Started in Ohio and led by Jacob Coxey an Ohio businessman, Coxey's Army, or Coxeyites as they were called, organized to march on Washington, D.C. They were dismayed because 1894 was the second year of a four-year depression and the worst economic depression in the nation's history up to that time. Across the nation, more than two-and-a-half million unemployed men walked the streets in search of work in the terrible winter of 1893-1894. Although the official name of the group was the "Commonweal in Christ," all over the country men came together forming their own local groups calling themselves Coxey's Army, the Commonweal Army, Commonwealers, and in Montana, Hogan's Band or Hogan's Army. These groups from all over the country planned to come together and join Jacob Coxey in Washington.
Across the nation, Spokane gained the reputation for worker solidarity. The Coxey march was the first large popular protest march on the nation's capital. In popular culture, Coxey's Army was the inspiration for the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Author L. Frank Baum was among the people observing the march.