Early Beginnings of the Grange Movement
The Grange movement of the 1860’s and 1870’s organized American farmers to protest against railroad monopolies. The movement took its name from the National Grange or Patrons of Husbandry, a lodge founded by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867.
Although Kelley organized the Grange for social and educational purposes, the
Grange’s early success was based on mobilizing farmers politically against
railroad and grain elevator monopolies that controlled the process of marketing
agricultural goods. The so-called Granger states, which included Minnesota,
Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, were in the upper Mississippi Valley, the region
where conflict between farmers and railroads over transportation costs was
particularly sharp in the 1870’s. To combat the corporations’ power, the
Grangers organized, often with the aid of local merchants and consumers, Granger
or anti-monopoly parties, and they campaigned successfully for laws establishing
state commissions to regulate railroads and warehouses. Although challenged, the
constitutionality of such laws was upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court decision in
Munn vs. Illinois (1876).
The Grangers also organized farmers cooperatives – stores, elevators, processing plants, and even farm equipment factories – and the failure of these business contributed to the rapid decline of the Granger movement in the late 1870’s. The National Grange, however, survived.
Created: 23 February 2007