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Hepburn Rate Bill, cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, May 15, 1906

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman satirized the challenges facing the railway regulation bill introduced by Representative William P. Hepburn of Iowa. After the bill passed the House, members of the Senate (some of whom were industry allies) proposed several amendments and passed the Senate version on May 20, 1906, forcing a conference between the two houses. It became law on June 29, 1906.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Hepburn Rate Bill, cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, May 15, 1906

Regulating the Railroads

The Hepburn Railway Regulation Act of 1906 was a major legislative achievement of the Progressive Era. With this act, Congress strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), expanding its authority and empowering it to set railroad rates, institute standardized accounting practices, and require rail companies to file annual reports. These new regulations helped curb abuses that had made the railroads one of the nation’s most powerful industries. Introduced in the House and opposed in the Senate, the legislation passed only after extensive negotiation between the chambers.

[This legislation] will aid toward minifying a number of wrongs; it will give greater contentment to all the people in the belief that they are not being made the puppet and the football of [railroad] carriers.

Representative William P. Hepburn of Iowa, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, February 7, 1906