Keating–Owen Act

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Lewis Hine's photography exposing child labor in America was among the factors which led to a change in attitudes about labor policy. This image was used on a 1998 US stamp to commemorate passage of the Keating–Owen Act.[1]

The Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916 also known as Wick's Bill, was a short-lived statute enacted by the U.S. Congress which sought to address child labor by prohibiting the sale in interstate commerce of goods produced by factories that employed children under fourteen, mines that employed children younger than sixteen, and any facility where children under sixteen worked at night or more than eight hours daily. The basis for the action was the constitutional clause giving Congress the task of regulating interstate commerce.

The Act specified that the U.S. Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor would convene a board to publish from time to time uniform rules and regulations to comply with this Act. To enforce this Act, the Secretary of Labor would assign inspectors to perform inspections of workplaces that produce goods for commerce. These inspectors would have the authority to make unannounced visits and would be given full access to the facility in question. Anyone found in violation of this Act or who makes false statements or produces false evidence would be subject to fine and/or imprisonment.

The bill was named for its sponsors, Edward Keating and Robert Latham Owen. The work of Alexander McKelway and the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC),[2] it was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson (who had lobbied heavily for its passage) in 1916 and went into effect September 1, 1917; however nine months later in Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918),[3] the Act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States (see also Lochner era).


  1. ^ US Stamp gallery
  2. ^ Child Labor: A World History Companion By Sandy Hobbs, Jim McKechnie, Michael Lavalette
  3. ^ "Abbott, Grace". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 

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