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Father Cox Papers

What’s online?


The James R. Cox online collection contains images from 1930 chronicling the life of Father James R. Cox, a Pittsburgh Catholic priest and a political and social activist. Images were selected for their portrayal of Father Cox's endeavors to help those in need. They show dinners for the poor during the Depression, crowds rallying to support Father Cox, unemployment lines, and the distribution of bread.

What’s in the entire collection?

The collection, held by the Archives Service Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh, comprises 426 photographs taken between 1923 and 1930, scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, a diary dating from 1904, sermons, hymns, and 28 audiocassettes of radio broadcasts with corresponding transcription discs.

About Father Cox

Father James R. Cox was born in 1886, the son of a Pittsburgh mill worker. During the Great Depression, he was instrumental in organizing food-relief programs and was noted for his work helping the homeless and unemployed find shelter. In January 1932, Cox led twenty thousand unemployed Pennsylvanians on a march to Washington, D.C. He hoped that a demonstration would stir Congress to start a public works program. This did not happen at the time, but the march sparked the formation of the Jobless Party in Pittsburgh. The Jobless Party supported government public works and labor unions and spread to other major cities. Father Cox then became the Jobless Party's first presidential candidate. However, in September 1932, he pulled out of the election and gave his support to the Democratic ticket and Franklin Roosevelt. This action effectively led to the demise of the Party.

After the presidential election of 1932, Father Cox continued his relief work and was a member of the Pennsylvania Commission for the Unemployed. In the mid-1930s, President Roosevelt appointed him to the state recovery board of the National Recovery Administration. He became known as Pittsburgh's "Pastor of the Poor."

For more information on Cox's presidential campaign, see Andrew I. Krupnick's 1932 diary Father Cox's Campaign for the Presidency of the United States (AIS MMs 5) at the Archives Service Center.

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