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James Robert Mann

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James Robert Mann served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1897 to 1922. Mann, an Illinois Republican, sponsored three pieces of legislation that enlarged the power of the federal government to regulate the economy and the nation's morals. He is best remembered as the author of the MANN ACT (18 U.S.C.A. § 2421 et seq.), also known as the White Slave Traffic Act.

Mann was born October 20, 1856, in McLean County, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1876 and then attended the Union College of Law (now known as the

James R. Mann.

Northwestern University Law School). Following his admission to the Illinois bar in 1881, Mann joined a prominent Chicago law firm and achieved success as a business attorney.

Mann became active in Chicago politics during the 1880s and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1897. As a moderate Republican, Mann believed that the federal government had a role to play in managing the national economy. His interest in reform was heightened by the work of muckraking journalists who produced sensational investigative articles exposing impure food processing and impure and often fraudulent drugs.

In response to public concerns about the quality of food and medicine, Mann sponsored a major piece of federal legislation, the PURE FOOD AND DRUG ACT OF 1906 (34 Stat. 768).

This act invoked the Constitution's COMMERCE CLAUSE for authority to regulate the interstate shipment of food and medicine. The law signaled a change in the state-federal power relationship, which had previously emphasized the right of states to regulate business.

The inspection of food products and medicines by the federal government both reassured the public about the quality of what it consumed and served notice that a national economy required national regulation. Mann demonstrated his continuing interest in regulation with his sponsorship of the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 (36 Stat. 539). Mann-Elkins gave the INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION authority to regulate and set the rates for telegraph, telephone, and railroad companies. The law recognized that these modes of communication and transportation were a vital part of the interstate economy and that their rates needed to be regulated by the federal government rather than by the states.

Mann was instrumental in the passage of the Mann Act in 1910. This act grew out of concerns of Chicago authorities that women and girls were being forced into prostitution through a variety of tricks and coercive tactics. The term white slavery came to symbolize the predicament of women who were kept in houses of prostitution against their will. It was alleged that "white slaves" (pimps and procurers) lured females from rural states into large cities such as Chicago and then forced them into prostitution.

Responding to pleas from Chicago prosecutors that a federal CRIMINAL LAW was needed, Mann introduced the Mann Act. The act prohibited the transportation of women across state lines for prostitution or "any other immoral purpose." Mann skillfully guided the legislation through the House of Representatives, overcoming congressional Democrats who argued that the act expanded federal POLICE POWER. Once passed, the Mann Act became a central part of the work of the newly created FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION.


Mann died in Washington, D.C., on November 30, 1922.


Grittner, Frederick K. 1990. White Slavery: Myth, Ideology, and American Law. New York: Garland.

Margulies, Herbert F. 1996. Reconciliation and Revival: James R. Mann and the House Republicans in the Wilson Era. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

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almost 10 years ago

Congressman James R. Mann was my great uncle. He was a brother of my grandfather, William A Mann, M.D. and uncle to my father, William A. Mann, Jr., M.D. President Teddy Roosevelt gave a gold pen to Congressman Mann that was used by President Roosevelt to sign the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. This pen was passed on to my father and upon his death to my mother, Maud Davison Mann. She in turn passed this pen on to me prior to her death in 1994. The pen was given by President Roosevelt to Congressman James R. Mann in recogition of and appreciation for his role in passing this important piece of legislation.

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almost 11 years ago

my grandfather, george w. miller, of gilman, illinois,later of chicago, named his son after cong. mann..james mann miller..my brother is jas. mann miller, jr., and his son is jas. mann miller, III...my g'father, gwm., worked in rep. manns ofc in wash, d.c., and rep. mann was instrumental in getting my g'father into the legal profession in chicago..the firm represented the predecessor to the now CTA (chicago subway system), and a woman's benefit organization in port huron, michigan, called the WBA...george w. miller married the founder of the WBA, after the death of carrie sproule miller, bina west...gwm died in the late '20's, and bina lived in the palmer house and the drake towers in chicago until her death in, i think, the 40's..the WBA (womans' benefit assoc) has since been bought be a national insurance company, don't recall the name, but the harris bank in chicago managed part of the reserves, and could provide that info to whomever wants it

i'd be happy to share whatever info someone wants on this

george w miller