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Pure Food

Pure Food: Securing the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Pure Food
    Book Description:

    "Pure food" became the rallying cry among a divergent group of campaigners who lobbied Congress for a law regulating foods and drugs. James Harvey Young reveals the complex and pluralistic nature not only of that crusade but also of the broader Progressive movement of which it was a significant strand. In the vivid style familiar to readers of his earlier works, The Toadstool Millionaires and The Medical Messiahs, Young sets the pure food movement in the context of changing technology and medical theory and describes pioneering laws to control imported drugs and domestic oleomargarine. He explains controversy within the pure food coalition, showing how farming and business groups sought competitive commercial advantage, while consumer advocates wished to promote commercial integrity and advance public health. The author focuses on how the public became increasingly fearful of hazards in adulterated foods and narcotic nostrums and how Congress finally achieved the compromises necessary to pass the Food and Drugs Act and the meat inspection law of 1906.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6032-6
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. I A “Murderous Traffic” in Imported Drugs
    (pp. 3-17)

    Federal regulation of food and drugs in the United States began, in a broad, across-the-board way, with the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906. The preliminaries to that law, however, ran far back to the time beyond memory when unscrupulous bakers and vintners began to adulterate bread and to water wine.² Such practices persisted through the centuries, and rulers issued various decrees aimed at curtailing deceptions. Legislatures in the British American colonies imitated statutes earlier enacted in the mother country seeking to protect the purses and safeguard the health of their citizens.³

    After the American Revolution, through the first...

  6. II Mercury, Meat, and Milk
    (pp. 18-39)

    In concluding his 1864 report on the ineffective enforcement of the 1848 drug importation law, Dr. Edward R. Squibb pointed with alarm to a looming threat, which he deemed, in some measure, a consequence of the shoddiness of drugs available to American physicians. “The profession appears to be rapidly, and doubdess justly, losing much of their former reliance upon drugs,” he wrote. It worried Squibb that the trend might accelerate into a “pernicious … absolute scepticism” with respect to drug therapy.³

    Dr. Squibb correctly noted voices within the ranks of the nation’s physicians raising trenchant questions about American ways of...

  7. III A Broad Concern Brought before the Congress
    (pp. 40-65)

    The attempt to secure a broad national law to protect citizens of the United States from the expanding threat of adulterated food, drink, and drugs began in 1879 and continued through a quarter century, by turns waxing and waning in intensity, before reaching fruition in 1906. During this extended campaign, two kinds of voices urged the necessity for action. The reform voice, sometimes shrill, concerns itself with the welfare of consumers, and, while bemoaning the way in which adulteration cheats the public, puts major stress on hazards to health. The business voice speaks in less frenetic tones, downplays danger, exempts...

  8. IV “This Greasy Counterfeit”
    (pp. 66-94)

    The most ardent foes of adulteration deemed especially insidious and immoral what they called artificial foods, creations by man imitating and selling as wares from nature’s bounty. “The rapid advance of chemical science,” observed a House report of the Forty-sixth Congress, “has opened a wide doorway for compounding mixtures so nearly resembling nature’s products that the senses are impotent to detect the difference.”² Worst of all were what George Angell termed “twin-brother[s],” glucose and oleomargarine.³ Campaigns got under way to suppress both these alleged impostors. Efforts to restrain glucose failed, lacking support from a broad enough coalition of interests. Fueled...

  9. V The Impact of Technology on Diet and Dosing
    (pp. 95-124)

    The only comprehensive food and drug bill to pass one of the chambers of the Congress before the advent of the twentieth century received favorable consideration from the Senate in 1892. Otherwise, the broad bills steadily introduced from 1879 onward expired because of bureaucratic rivalry, the conflicting goals of competing economic interests, and lack of popular support.

    The Treasury Department had responsibility for enforcing the drug importation act of 1848, an 1883 law modeled on the drug act that banned imports of adulterated tea,² and the oleomargarine statute. A comprehensive food and drug bill introduced into the Congress that passed...

  10. VI Initiative for a Law Resumed
    (pp. 125-145)

    The bill introduced on December 18, 1897, by Marriott Brosius of Pennsylvania conveyed to the Fifty-fifth Congress regulatory ideas from the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists committee, chaired by Harvey Wiley. Rooted in the Paddock bill, the aoac draft was expanded to include cosmetics and a broader definition of drugs. The Paddock bill’s stipulation that only a “knowingly” illegal act was actionable did not now appear. The bill authorized the secretary of agriculture to call upon the aoacs to fix food standards that would possess authority before the courts.²

    The toughening of the bill worried businessmen, even those anxious for...

  11. VII Progress toward a Law
    (pp. 146-173)

    On December 18, 1902, the House of Representatives passed a pure food and drug bill, the first such broad measure to be approved by either chamber of the Congress since the Paddock bill had received Senate sanction ten years before. Pure-food advocates dared to hope that their crusade neared successful termination. However, more than three years of frustration yet faced Harvey Wiley and his allies. Victory, they came to realize, would require increased public concern and support. “Public sentiment in favor of the bill,” asserted the editor of the American Grocer, “needs to be crystalized and centralized, and its influence...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. VIII Combining and Crusading for a Law
    (pp. 174-203)

    Before Wiley had moved from Purdue to Washington, segments of business had been interested in getting a law. From the start the goal of each industry had been to shape public policy to make it useful in tough competitive battles that continued to rage. As lobbying pressures modified proposed measures, some elements of business that had supported earlier versions became opponents, while other elements joined the proponents pushing for a law. The alum baking-powder interests, for example, outspoken champions of bills they thought would curb their cream-of-tartar competitors, became indifferent, if not hostile, in 1904 when this goal seemed unlikely...

  14. IX Prelude to Victory
    (pp. 204-220)

    Collier’sran the final article in Samuel Hopkins Adams’s stirring series on “The Great American Fraud” in its February 17, 1906, issue. By that date the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce had moved midway through a heated fortnight’s hearing devoted to the pure-food cause. The Senate, deciding not to hold a hearing, stood on the eve of a major floor debate centered on its current version of a food and drug bill. One other major event took place in mid-February, although its crucial relevance to the legislative process did not become immediately apparent. The day after Adams’s article...

  15. X The Jungle and the Meat-Inspection Amendments
    (pp. 221-252)

    A recent and earnest recruit to the romantic socialism of the turn of the century, Upton Sinclair was led to Chicago’s Packingtown by the failure of a strike in 1904. The workers had challenged the power of the meatpacking barons, but had gone down to defeat. Sinclair had written a manifesto for the leading socialist paper,Appeal to Reason, offering the stricken strikers hope through joining the Socialist party. In response he received letters begging him to come to Chicago to report on their lives.²

    Then twenty-five, Sinclair had been trying to make a living by writing romantic novels, none...

  16. XI The Law Secured
    (pp. 253-272)

    Debate on the pure-food bill began in the House of Representatives on June 21, 1906, four months after the hearings before the Commerce Committee had concluded. William Hepburn had shrewdly kept the committee bill alive in May by linking it with two other measures, each having some support, winning privileged status for all three.² Strict constructionists, led by William Adamson of Georgia, objected. The bill should be called “pure foolishness” instead of “pure food,” Adamson said, adding derisively: “The Federal Government was not created for the purpose of cutting your toe nails or corns.”³

    Whatever doubts existed about the food...

  17. XII The Law Interpreted
    (pp. 273-296)

    Single laws do not usually loom large in the historiography of a nation. In textbooks by which high school and college students survey American history, the theme of health, let alone laws dealing with public health, has generally received scant attention as compared with politics, diplomacy, and economic development. Yet enactment of the Food and Drugs Act of 1906 and of the simultaneous Meat Inspection Amendment has not gone unnoticed in sweeping accounts of United States history. Indeed, these two laws, or sometimes just one of them, treated as accomplishments of a year or two during the early Progressive era,...

  18. Index
    (pp. 297-312)