Abstract: The Shreveport Rates Case: Regulating Intrastate Commerce

Kevin L. Eades


In 1913, the Supreme Court delivered a decision in the Shreveport Rates Case, a combination of lawsuits involving the Houston East and West Texas Railroad (HE&WT) that allowed the federal government to regulate intrastate commerce as well as interstate commerce. The HE&WT operated a railroad from Houston, Texas, to Shreveport, Louisiana. The Texas Railroad Commission set the maximum freight shipping rate toward Shreveport higher than the freight shipping rate to Texarkana, Texas, a longer distance to the east, but still in Texas. This structure favored shipping freight to Dallas instead of Shreveport, despite the increased distance. As result of the decision, the Supreme Court expanded the power of the federal government to regulate any aspect of life. In this presentation, I hope to demonstrate the legacy of this court case in the area of regulatory reform, particularly in the railroad industry, which was a favorite target of the Progressive muckrakers. Second, I hope to show the local aspects of this court case, exploring the ways that it affected railroad development in East Texas and Western Louisiana.