1 minute read

Holden v. Hardy

Utah Limits The Miner's Workday

At the turn of the century, Utah was a major mining area. The Utah state legislature had passed a law limiting the workday in mines and smelters (places where metal is melted down) to eight hours, except in the event of an emergency. As a result, a mine and smelter owner named Holden was charged with unlawfully employing John Anderson for ten-hour days in his Old Jordan mine in Bingham canyon and with unlawfully employing William Hooley to work twelve-hour days in his smelter.

In the first case, Holden was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of fifty dollars plus costs, a substantial sum in those days. If Holden refused to pay, he would be sent to the county jail for 57 days. Holden was also found guilty and similarly punished in the second case.

Holden appealed to the Supreme Court, basing his case on three arguments.

1) The Utah law deprived people of their right to make contracts.

2) The Utah law was "class" legislation; that is, it did not treat all citizens equally. Only mining and smelter employees were forbidden to work more than eight hours a day; only mining and smelter owners were forbidden to require their workers to work more than eight hours. Workers and employers in other industries were given more freedom.

3) The Utah law deprived some people, including Holden, of equal protection under the law, and deprived him, his workers, and others in his industry of liberty without due process of law.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Holden v. Hardy - Significance, Utah Limits The Miner's Workday, "a Progressive Science", Miners And Bakers