Constitutional Places: The Carolene Products Factory That Straddled The Border Between Missouri and Oklahoma, But Did Not Engage In Interstate Commerce

September 10th, 2012

This is the second part of my series of posts about Charles Hauser, the Defendant in United States v. Carolene Products. My first post looked at how a federal court struck down the Filled Milk Act in 1972, three decades after the Supreme Court famously upheld it. The second post looks at Hauser’s subsequent criminal conviction in 1943, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court. The third post analyzes the Milnot factory built that straddles the Missouri-Oklahoma border. The final post analyzes a subsequent pardon signed by President Roosevelt in in 1945.

Following Charles Hauser’s second trip to the Supreme Court, in which his conviction for distributing Milnot in violation of the Filed Milk Act was affirmed, Hauser had to stop shipping Milnot across state lines. brasBut that didn’t stop Hauser from shipping Milnot in different states.

In a stroke of genius, Hauser built a factory that straddled the state line between Oklahoma and Missouri. Located at 105 Washington Avenue in Seneca, Missouri, this factory was built to serve markets in Oklahoma in Missouri without running afoul of the prohibitions of the Filled Milk Act, which only reached the shipment of Milnot in interstate commerce.

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The factory actually had a brass rail going straight across the state line. All equipment and products were maintained separately on each side of the factory. The most important step–the addition of vegetable oil–was specifically undertaken on the appropriate side of the factory. There were two canning lines. Two cargo bays. And two sets of trucks to distribute the Milnot in each state.

A newspaper report from 1986 recounts:

Milnot management obtained legal clearance in Missouri and Oklahoma and in 1949 they constructed a plant in southwest Missouri on the Missouri and Oklahoma state line. Because the plant was on each side of the state line, the company could manufacture “Milnot” and ship it legally to each state. When production began a federal employee was present to police the shipments from each half. A brass strip was placed on the plant floor to mark the Missouri-Oklahoma line. The strip is still there!

One of Hauser’s grandsons told me that an elbow pipe at the factory protruded over the border rail. Hauser had the entire system refitted so the pipe would stay on one side of the state.

This remarkable attempt to evade federal jurisdiction is a testament to Hauser’s entrepreneurial gumption, and savvy constitutional avoidance.

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The factory is still there today. On the roof of the building is the infamous Milnot can.