National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1886-1906: We encounter prosperity and its perils in an industrial age

In 1869 a single swing of the sledgehammer drove the “golden spike” connecting the tracks for the first transcontinental railroad. Trains spread goods, resources and opportunity across the country, and the Constitution insured that all this commerce would flow without too much local interference. To cope with the challenges of the industrial age, the federal and state governments enacted new legislation to control business practices, improve working conditions, protect consumers and improve the environment. The Supreme Court tried to strike a balance. Attempting to protect the right of contract, it gave corporations as much leeway as possible and restricted labor unions. But when the Court thought a workplace reform truly guarded health, safety, or morals, it ruled it constitutional.

November 12, 1898
The backlash began after the war’s end
  May 4, 1886
On this day Bomb explodes at Chicago’s Haymarket Square labor rally, triggering crackdown on labor activists
May 10, 1886
The Supreme Court says corporations are “persons”
October 25, 1886
The railroads win: states can’t interfere with interstate commerce
  October 28, 1886
On this day Statue of Liberty dedicated
  September 17, 1887
On this day Country celebrates Constitution’s centennial birthday
  March 4, 1889
On this day Republican Benjamin Harrison inaugurated as president
  July 2, 1890
On this day National American Woman Suffrage Association formed to promote right of women to vote
  January 1, 1892
On this day Ellis Island opens as processing center for immigrants
May 18, 1896
One Justice warns that “separate” is not “equal”
  March 4, 1897
On this day William McKinley inaugurated as president
July 2, 1890
Ohio senator John Sherman has written a new antitrust law
November 8, 1892
The People’s Party denounces corruption and corporate power
  June 20, 1893
On this day Eugene Debs helps form American Railway Union
  May 10, 1894
On this day Pullman workers vote to strike!
July 3, 1894
President Cleveland sends troops to break up Pullman strike
July 4, 1894
Queen Lili’uokalani permanently removed as queen of Hawaiian Islands
January 21, 1895
In the E.C. Knight case, the Court lets the sugar monopoly stand
  May 27, 1895
On this day Supreme Court, in In re Debs, upholds federal injunction issued against union leader Eugene V. Debs and American Railway Union
  April 25, 1896
On this day U.S. declares war on Spain following sinking of battleship Maine in Havannah harbor
  September 14, 1901
On this day Following assassination of William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt becomes president
  December 2, 1902
On this day Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., named to Supreme Court
  February 23, 1903
On this day Supreme Court upholds congressional power to bar lottery tickets from interstate commerce in Champion v. Ames
  March 14, 1904
On this day Supreme Court upholds breakup of the Northern Securities Co. for violating Sherman Antitrust Act
April 6, 1904
The issue of polygamy tests the limits of freedom of religion
January 30, 1905
Meat and margarine: the Court opens the door to some federal regulation
April 17, 1905
The Supreme Court overturns a New York law on bakers’ hours
  June 29, 1906
On this day Hepburn Act expands powers of Interstate Commerce Commission
  June 30, 1906
On this day Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act

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