Here’s an interesting piece of American history. This is a large silver plated water pitcher with an enameled iron interior lining. It bears the monogram of the Corcoran Cadet Corps (more about that below). The pitcher stands about 12 inches tall to the top of the lid finial and it is in good condition excepting a couple of dents in the side.
It is heavily decorated and the design bears a patent date of October 29, 1878. It is marked Superior Silver, which was a brand used by the Middletown Plate Company. Middletown was taken over by International Silver in 1899 so we know this piece dates to the late 19th century.
From what I’ve been able to see the Cadet Corps was a voluntary paramilitary (and likely Roman Catholic) fraternity located in Washington D.C. in the late 19th and early 20th century. They participated in the usual sorts of activities: drills, forced marches, marching in public monument dedications, acrimonious court cases, trips to Atlantic City and the World’s Fair, that sort of thing. They even had a formidable basketball team which once trounced the opposition with a score of 6 to 3, not withstanding slippery floors which “marred play that might have been otherwise faultless.”
Perhaps most interesting in the view of this distant point in history is their participation as part* of the “National Guard” in response to the threat to civil order presented by Coxey’s Army in 1894.
The movement that became known as Coxey’s Army (a.k. a. the ‘Great Army of the Idle’) was a populist protest of unemployed persons in response to the recession of 1893. They formed in several bands throughout the United States with the stated intention of marching upon Washington to declare their grievances in the seat of power. The most notable faction was led by Jacob Coxey, an industrial capitalist and perhaps the most losing, but undaunted candidate in American politics.
There was great fear that they would achieve their objective by reaching Washington and that once there . . . they would protest the policies of President Cleveland which they felt resulted in their unemployment in the first place. As usual, the forces of repression in society mobilized to meet the heinous threat of peacefully protesting poor people by mobilizing paramilitary and police organizations. Among these were the members of the Corcoran Cadet Corps.
As usual in such situations the war-hawks made sure to put on a good show when the opposition was still miles away, to grab some newspaper headlines and then embark upon a victory parade.
Coxey’s Army did eventually reach Washington where . . ,nothing much happened. Coxey himself was not allowed to give his prepared speech “We…say, help, or we and our loved ones must perish… we come to remind the Congress here assembled of the declaration of a United States Senator, “that for a quarter of a century the rich have been growing richer, the poor poorer, and that by the close of the present century the middle class will have disappeared as the struggle for existence becomes fierce and relentless.”
Yes, that’s the entirety of it.
Thanks to ever-present gendarmes, the Army was quickly moved to temporary quarters at an old dump they called Camp Tyranny. Coxey and some of his associates were arrested for the revolutionary acts of illegally displaying banners (2 x 3 inch lapel pins) and walking on the grass. Although they attested that they did not walk on the grass and lapel pins were not banners they were found guilty, fined $5 and sentenced to 20 days in jail. The rest of the army dispersed and the largest part decamped to Virginia where they were eventually arrested on charges of vagrancy by police from (as non-sensical as it may be) Baltimore, Maryland.
*Although it should be noted that they joined the national guard in response to the actions of rogue members prior to their unsatisfactorily resolved court case.