chapter  13
18 Pages

The Case of the Stubborn Baker

Lochner v. New York (1905)
WithMelvin I. Urofsky

If Dred Scott gave its name to the most reviled case in the nineteenth century, then Lochner v. New York holds that dubious title for the first half of the twentieth century. For years Lochner stood as a code word for conservative activism by a judiciary out of touch with the realities of modern industrial life. In the courts the story of Lochner, and of all protective legislation, is a battle between conservative advocates of substantive due process and freedom of contract and reform proponents of the police power. Prior to the Civil War most baking was done in the home, but industrialization drew many women to work in factories, and as fewer found the time to bake at home they turned to local bakeries for their bread. Housing reformers wanted to provide safer and healthier housing, and doing away with unsanitary bakeshops in the cellars was a necessary step.