Interstate Commerce Act

(1887)

Context

By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the railroad was growing in track mileage and in importance to the American economy. At that time, the railroads were independently owned and unregulated, and the industry was highly competitive. Farmers and merchants, from the East Coast to the West Coast, dependent upon the railroad for survival, were affected by what was perceived to be the growing power of the railroad monopolies. Rate wars, cutthroat competition, and stock manipulation were widespread throughout the industry. The atmosphere was ripe for change.

By the 1870s Americans had begun to raise objections to the discriminatory practices of the railroads, particularly those involved in interstate commerce. Many called for regulatory measures. Numerous bills were proposed to regulate rates, investigate abuses and complaints, and curtail the railroad's use of pooling, rebating, and drawbacks, which many saw as discriminatory and unfair practices. For the railroad...

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The Interstate Commerce Act (National Archives and Records Administration)

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