In the late 19th century, the Margarine Act of 1886 taxed the entire burgeoning margarine industry nearly out of business. Margarine, invented by French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries in the 1860s, was considered a cheaper and tasty alternative to butter. Low-income families happily jumped on the spreadable commodity:
In 1871, the U.S. Dairy Company began manufacturing margarine in New York City. In March 1874, Harper’s Weekly reported that two factories in New York produced 19,000 pounds of margarine daily, and eight million pounds had been consumed in the United States within the past year.
And, the dairy lobby quickly took to the levers of power to sink their new competition. Butter producers suggested margarine was made of tainted fat and masquerading as butter. After that, they convinced the New York state legislator to ban the product, but the law was later overturned as unconstitutional. Onto Congress, which did not ban the substance, but imposed crippling taxes upon it: