The Interstate Commerce Commission, formed by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, was the first federal regulatory commission. The Commission was tasked with regulating railroads and preventing rate discrimination.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company was chartered in 1859 and was a major force in the settlement of the American Southwest. The main line of the railway to Colorado was finished in 1872, but it was extended throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At its peak, the rail ran more than 13,000 miles in track.
The Central Pacific Railroad was established in 1861 by the “Big Four”—Leland Standford, Collis P. Huntingon, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins. The Central Pacific was part of the first transcontinental rail line, though its progress was often slow. Chinese immigrants were largely responsible for building the rail, which began in Sacramento, California, and reached east until it met the Union Pacific Railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah, in May 1869 to complete the transcontinental line.
A major labor organization in the 1880s, the Knights of Labor was founded in 1869 by an organization of garment workers in Philadelphia. Its membership was open to all workers, including African Americans and women. The Knights promoted cooperation and believed that workers were entitled “the full enjoyment of the wealth they create.”