Menu
Image 1 of
Zoom In
Zoom Out
Fullscreen

Hammer v. Dagenhart, dissenting opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, June 3, 1918

Roland Dagenhart, whose sons worked in a North Carolina mill, challenged the Keating-Owen law in a U.S. district court, which found it unconstitutional. U.S. Attorney General W. C. Hammer appealed the case to the Supreme Court. In 1918 the court ruled the Keating-Owen Act unconstitutional, stating that Congress’s regulation of interstate commerce did not include production of goods. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes dissented.

Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration

Hammer v. Dagenhart, dissenting opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, June 3, 1918 Hammer v. Dagenhart, dissenting opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, June 3, 1918 Hammer v. Dagenhart, dissenting opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, June 3, 1918 Hammer v. Dagenhart, dissenting opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, June 3, 1918 Hammer v. Dagenhart, dissenting opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, June 3, 1918

Is Child Labor Law Constitutional?

It took Congress and the Supreme Court decades to agree that federal regulation of child labor was constitutional. Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana introduced the first federal child-labor bill in 1906. That bill failed, but Congress passed subsequent bills in 1916 and 1919, only to see them struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Finally, in 1941, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier opinions, recognizing Congress’s power to regulate child labor as stipulated in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

Congress and the Supreme Court have interpreted the Constitution differently on some issues. Through opposing laws and legal decisions spanning a quarter century, the two branches eventually agreed that legislation regulating child labor is constitutional.