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Child Labor Tax Act 40 Stat. 1138 (1918)

CHILD LABOR TAX ACT 40 Stat. 1138 (1918)

In hammer v. dagenhart (1918), a 5–4 Supreme Court voided the Child Labor Act of 1916, which had forbidden carriers from transporting the products of child labor in interstate commerce, as a prohibition, not a regulation, of commerce. This distinction had been thought rejected as early as champion v. ames (1903). Progressive reformers, intent on abolishing child labor, had shifted the basis of their efforts from the commerce clause to the taxing power, thus invoking a new set of powerful precedents, notably mccray v. united states (1904).

In late 1918 Congress passed a Revenue Act to which had been added an amendment known as the Child Labor Tax Act. A ten percent excise tax was imposed on the net profits from the sale of child labor-produced items. This tax extended to any factory, mine, or mill employing children under fourteen, or to the age of sixteen under certain circumstances. Congressmen from the major cotton textile manufacturing states, southern Democrats, cast nearly all the negative votes.

In bailey v. drexel furniture co. (1922) an 8–1 Court invalidated the act, McCray and united states v. doremus (1919) notwithstanding, as a violation of the powers reserved to the states by the tenth amendment.

David Gordon


Wood, Stephen B. 1968 Constitutional Politics in the Progressive Era: Child Labor and the Law. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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