Period characterized by a variety of reforms and legislation aimed at improving the quality of life by regulating commerce and labor.
From the end of the Civil War in 1865 until the end of the nineteenth century, Americans devoted their energy to expansion of the urban and industrial segment of the economy at the expense of the worker. By the last decade of the nineteenth century, reformers began to attempt to control or limit the numerous problems that resulted from the rapid industrialization and urbanization.
The growth of big business after the Civil War gave rise to monopolistic practices
During the two-term presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, a Progressive Justice Department filed forty-three cases under the Sherman Antitrust Act to restrain or break up monopolistic businesses, including the Northern Securities Company and the beef trust, and questionable practices, including employment contracts and child labor.
This early 1900’s New York shoe factory reled solely on child labor. Progressive legislation, which tried to stop exploitative preactices such as these, often was declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court.
In Northern Securities Co. v. United States
In 1904 the Court adopted the stream of commerce
The Court unanimously ruled the meatpackers’ agreements violated the Sherman Antitrust Act because meatpacking was a part of the process in which cattle were shipped from out of state to Chicago for slaughter and packing and then shipped out of Illinois to other states for sale. This stream of commerce, which clearly involved more than one state, meant that the act applied in this case. The Court invalidated the price agreements made by Swift and the others. In the opinion for the Court, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated: “When cattle are sent for sale from a place in one state, with the expectation that they will end their transit, after purchase, in another, and when in effect they do so, with only the interruption necessary to find a purchaser at the stockyards, and when this is a typical constantly recurring course, the current of commerce among the states, and the purchase of the cattle is a part and incident of such commerce.” In subsequent cases, the Court would use the stream of commerce doctrine to regulate the actual production of goods, and it would also use the commerce clause of the Constitution to oversee modern business and industry.
The Court abandoned its literal interpretation of the Sherman Antitrust Act in Northern Securities. In an 8-1 decision in Standard Oil Co. v. United States
The police powers
Barbuto, Domenica M. American Settlement Houses and Progressive Social Reform: An Encyclopedia of the American Settlement Movement. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1999. Buenker, John D., and Edward R. Kantowicz, eds. Historical Dictionary of the Progressive Era, 1890-1920. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. Divine, Robert A., et al. America Past and Present. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1998. Gallagher, Aileen. The Muckrakers: American Journalism During the Age of Reform. New York: Rosen, 2004. Hofstadter, Richard, and Beatrice Hofstadter, eds. From Reconstruction to the Present Day, 1864-1981. Vol. 3 in Great Issues in American History. New York: Vintage Books, 1982. Klose, Nelson. Since 1865. Vol. 2 in United States History. New York: Barrons Educational Services, 1983. Wingate, Katherine. Political Reforms: American Citizens Gain More Control over Their Government. New York: Rosen, 2006.
Commerce, regulation of
E. C. Knight Co., United States v.
Hammer v. Dagenhart
Muller v. Oregon
Northern Securities Co. v. United States
Rule of reason
Sherman Antitrust Act
Standard Oil Co. v. United States
Swift and Co. v. United States