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The 1900s

At the turn of the century, the Industrial Revolution brought with it greater consumer literacy and availability of printed materials. These two developments, combined with the advent of a railroad system to transport goods, gave rise to a new marketing concept: the sale of brand-name products on a massive, not just local, scale.
More goods and services, sold by increasingly clever and widespread advertising, brought about greater potential for consumer troubles. Thus, the 20th Century ushered in an unparalleled era of federal legislation, new regulatory agencies, publications, scandals and pioneers that dramatically changed the relationships between buyers and sellers, as described in the table below.
 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act
 1891  First local Consumers’ League formed, New York City
 1898     National Consumers’ League created
 1906     Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, exposes meat packing industry and prompts passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act
 1906 Wiley Pure Food and Drug Act
 1914 Federal Trade Commission Act, to regulate unfair methods of competition in commerce
 1927  Your Money’s Worth, written by Chase and Schlink attacks the advertising industry, calls for product testing and proposes "Consumers Club"
 1929 Consumers’ Research, Inc. formed to test products

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dramatizes the need for new legislation with product exhibit called "Chamber of Horrors," which includes items like an eyelash dye which causes blindness


Liquid form of a new sulfa drug kills 100 people, prompting an FDA bill requiring manufacturers to prove the safety of new drugs before marketing


Wheeler-Lea amendment gives FTC Act the power to protect consumers from un- fair or deceptive acts or practices

 1946     Ex-Madison Avenue copywriter Frederick Wakeman writes The Huckster, an exposé on the advertising industry, creating public outcry

Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s investigation into drug industry reveals weakness in safety testing and calls for amendments to strengthen powers of FDA


Hidden Persuaders, written by by Vance Packard exposes advertising industry


President John F. Kennedy outlines Consumer Bill of Rights


Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring exposes the dangers of pesticides and chemicals

 1964     President Lyndon Johnson creates Office of Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs
 1965  Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed, presents evidence of hazards in automobiles
 1966  Highway Safety Act passed

Truth-in-Packaging Bill


Fair Debt Collection Practices Act


Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act


Truth in Savings Act


Gramm-Leach Bliley Act Regulation, Privacy of Consumer Financial Information