Hepburn Act of 1906

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HEPBURN ACT. Congress passed the Hepburn Act to clarify and increase the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission over railroads and certain other types of carriers. It authorized the commission to determine and prescribe just and reasonable maximum rates, establish through routes, and prescribe and enforce uniform systems of accounts. The law also strengthened the Elkins Act of 1903, dealing with personal discrimination; forbade railroads from transporting, except for their own use, many commodities in which they were financially interested; restricted the granting of free passes; and increased the number of commissioners from five to seven. The commission's orders were made binding without court action, thus requiring carriers to assume the burden of initiating litigation that tested the validity of the orders.


Cooper, John Milton, Jr. Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900–1920. New York: Norton, 1990.

Eisner, Marc Allen. Regulatory Politics in Transition. 2d ed. Interpreting American Politics Series. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. The original edition was published in 1993.

Kolko, Gabriel. Railroads and Regulation, 1877–1916. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Hobart S.Perry/c. p.

See alsoElkins Act ; Interstate Commerce Commission ; Railroad Rate Law .

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Passed by the United States Congress in June 1906, the Hepburn Act gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), established in 1887, the authority to compel railroads to abide by the regulatory agency's standards and rulings. Rail companies that chose to challenge the ICC in court continued to be subject to all ICC regulations while the legal proceedings were going forward; in other words, the fact that a trial was underway did not exempt any rail company from abiding by all ICC rules. The Hepburn Act gave the ICC the right to fix rail rates, investigate rail trusts, and expanded the agency's purview to include interstate transportation terminals, bridges, rail sleeping cars, express companies, and ferry services. The bill, also called the Railway Rate Regulation Act, was sponsored by representative William Peters Hepburn (18331916) of Iowa. The legislation was one of several congressional acts to broadened the jurisdiction and increased the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission, which originally gave the agency control over interstate rail rates and practices.

See also: Interstate Commerce, Interstate Commerce Commission, Railroad Industry

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