This section is from the book "Scientific American Reference Book. A Manual for the Office, Household and Shop", by Albert A. Hopkins, A. Russell Bond. Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
This Commission, appointed under "An act to regulate commerce," approved February 4, 1887, has authority to inquire into the management of the business of all common carriers who are subject to the provisions of the act. These are all which are "engaged in the transportation of passengers or property wholly by railroad, or partly by railroad and partly by water when both are used, under a common control, management, or arrangement, for a continuous carriage or shipment, from one State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia to any other State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, or from any place in the United States to an adjacent foreign country, or from any place in the United States through a foreign country to any other place in the United States, and also in the transportation in like manner of property shipped from any place in the United States to a foreign country and carried from such place to a port of transshipment, or shipped from a foreign country to any place in the United States and carried to such place from a port of entry either in the United States or an adjacent foreign country." It has jurisdiction to inquire into and report upon the reasonableness of rates on interstate traffic, to decide questions of unjust discrimination and of undue preference, to prescribe the publicity to be given to joint tariffs, and to institute and carry on proceedings for the enforcement of the provisions of the law. It has power to call for reports, to require the attendance of witnesses and the production of books and papers, to hear complaints of a violation of the act made against any such carrier, and to determine what reparation shall be made to a party wronged; to institute inquiries on its own motion or at the request of State railroad commissions, and to report thereon; and it is required to make an animal report, which shall be transmitted to Congress.
The act of March 2, 1893, known as the "Safety Appliance Act," provides that within specified periods railroad cars used in interstate commerce must be equipped with automatic couplers and standard height of drawbars for freight cars, and have grab irons or handholds on the ends and sides of each car.
A further provision of this act is that locomotive engines used in moving interstate traffic shall be fitted with a power driving wheel brake and appliances for operating the train brake system, and a sufficient number of cars in the train shall be equipped with power or train brakes. The act directs the Commission to lodge with the proper district attorneys information of such violations as may come to its knowledge. The Commission is authorized, from time to time, upon full hearing and for good cause, to extend the period within which any common carrier shall comply with the provisions of the statute. The act of March 2, 1903, amended this act so as to make its provisions apply to Territories and the District of Columbia, to all cases when couplers of whatever design are brought together, and to all locomotives, cars, and other equipment of any railroad engaged in interstate traffic, except logging cars and cars used upon street railways, and also to power or train brakes used in railway operation.
The act of March 3, 1901, "requiring common carriers engaged in interstate commerce to make reports of all accidents to the Interstate Commerce Commission," makes it the duty of such carrier monthly to report, under oath, all collisions and derailments of its trains and accidents to its passengers, and to its employees while on duty in its service, and to state the nature and causes thereof. The act prescribes that a fine shall be imposed against any such carrier failing to make the report so required.
The Secretary of Commerce and Labor is charged with the work of promoting the commerce of the United States, and its mining, manufacturing, shipping, fishery, transportation, and labor interests. His duties also comprise the investigation of the organization and management of corporations (excepting railroads) engaged in interstate commerce; the gathering and publication of information regarding labor interests and labor controversies in this and other countries; the administration of the Light House Service, and the aid and protection to shipping thereby; the taking of the census, and the collection and publication of statistical information connected therewith; the making of coast and geodetic surveys; the collecting of statistics relating to foreign and domestic commerce: the inspection of steamboats, and the enforcement of laws relating thereto for the protection of life and property; the supervision of the fisheries as administered by the Federal Government; the supervision and control of the Alaskan fur seal, salmon, and other fisheries; the jurisdiction over merchant vessels, their registry, licensing, measurement, entry, clearance, transfers, movement of their cargoes and passengers, and laws relating thereto, and to seamen of the United States; the supervision of the immigration of aliens, and the enforcement of the laws relating thereto, and to the exclusion of Chinese; the custody, construction, maintenance, and application of standards of weights and measurements; and the gathering and supplying of information regarding industries and markets for the fostering of manufacturing. He has power to call upon other Departments for statistical data obtained by them.
It is his further duty to make such special investigations and furnish such information to the President or Congress as may be required by them on the foregoing subject-matters and to make annual reports to Congress upon the work of said Department.
The Bureau of Labor is charged with the duty of acquiring and diffusing among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with labor in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word, and especially upon its relations to capital, the hours of labor, the earnings of laboring men and women, and the means of promoting their material, social, intellectual, and moral prosperity.
It is especially charged to investigate the causes of and facts relating to all controversies and disputes between employers and employees as they may occur, and which may happen to interfere with the welfare of the people of the several States.