Granger Movement

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Granger Movement

An 1873 Granger promotional poster printed in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Granger Movement experienced rapid growth following the Panic of 1873 and peaked by 1875. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
An 1873 Granger promotional poster printed in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Granger Movement experienced rapid growth following the Panic of 1873 and peaked by 1875.

The Granger Movement was begun in the late 1860s by farmers who called for government regulation of railroads and other industries whose prices and practices, they claimed, were monopolistic and unfair. Their efforts contributed to a growing public sentiment against monopolies, which culminated in the passage of the Sherman Act (or Sherman Anti-Trust Act) of 1890, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1–7.

In 1867, the American farmer was in desperate straits. Needing better educational opportunities and protection from exorbitant prices charged by middlemen, the farmers decided to form an independent group to achieve their goals. Oliver Hudson Kelley, a former employee of the Agriculture Department, organized a group called the Patrons of Husbandry. Membership was open to both men and women, and each local group was known as a Grange. Each Grange chose officers, and the goal of each meeting was to present news of educational value to the farmer.

Kelley traveled across the country establishing Granges; he found his greatest support in Minnesota. The Granges soon evolved into the national Granger Movement. By 1873, all but four states had Granges.

The main problems confronting the Granger Movement concerned corporate ownership of grain elevators (used for the storage of crops) and railroads. These corporations charged high prices for the distribution and marketing of agricultural goods, and the farmer had no recourse but to pay. By 1873, the movement was becoming political, and the farmers formed an alliance, promising to support only political candidates who shared the interests of farmers; if that failed, they vowed to form their own parties.

Granger-supported candidates won political victories, and, as a result, much legislation protective of their interests was passed. Their biggest gain occurred in 1876, when the U.S. Supreme Court decreed in munn v. illinois, 94 U.S. (4 Otto.) 113, 24 L. Ed. 77, that states had the right to intervene in the regulation of public businesses. The law affected the prices of elevator charges, grain storage, and other services vital to the livelihood of the farmers.

In addition to political involvement, the Grangers established stores and cooperative elevators and employed the services of agents who secured special prices for the Grangers. These endeavors were not as successful as their previous undertakings, and the attempt to manufacture farm machinery depleted the finances of the movement. As a result, the Granger Movement began to wane in 1876.


Agricultural Law.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Comparing the Grange to trades unions, guilds, boards of trade, and law societies, the promoters of the Patrons of Husbandry claimed that their association advanced the calling and fortune of the agricultural population.
(20) According to the Patrons of Husbandry, the greatest disruption to societal relations by the end of the 19th century was the commercial class.
In calling for the Patrons of Husbandry to end their crusade against the retailers, Weld was not only safeguarding his own business and the advertising revenue received from commercial ventures, but he also upheld the vision of classlessness preached by the original Dominion Grange.
Patrons of Husbandry were far more concerned with ensuring equality of opportunity within the community when it came to trade practices, than in advocating a particular economic position.
To Weld, the Patrons of Husbandry violated not only accepted market relations, but also the laws of political economy:
The participation of women was a significant factor in the rise of the Dominion Grange, as the Patrons of Husbandry attempted to create both a higher manhood and womanhood within society.
(42) The importance of social intercourse to end the isolation of farmers undoubtedly became a major selling point for the Patrons of Husbandry. Noting that the Grange was primarily a social institution, Grangers fully believed that the "old, selfish system of isolation" was giving way to this new "invigorating sociality" whereby the agricultural community could develop themselves as social beings.
(82) While the leadership of the Patrons of Husbandry and the Patrons of Industry offered ideological visions of class harmony, the promise of united political action through antipartyism, and the assurance of material prosperity to Ontario's farmers, the history of agrarian protest can be viewed as one of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations.
(14) History of the Grange in Canada, 3; Circular to the Deputies of Dominion Granges (Toronto 1877); Manual of Subordinate Granges of the Patrons of Husbandry, Adopted by the Dominion Grange (Welland 1876), 16.