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The Patrons of Husbandry, known as the Grange, was founded in 1867 by Oliver Hudson Kelley. Essentially, its initial purpose was threefold. First, the Grange, composed of a network of chapters around the country, sought to introduce farmers to new and more efficient farming techniques in a fraternal setting. Second, local Grange organizations provided a forum for camaraderie and cooperation. The Gilded Age was an age that emphasized the importance of private aid societies, and the Grange provided this kind of outlet for farmers.
Most significant, the Grange was a means for farmers to organize in defense of their interests. The Grange especially targeted railroads, which operated, they argued, to the detriment of farmers by charging exorbitant shipping rates, high fees for the use of grain elevators, and other practices. In the Midwest, the Grange achieved enough power to influence state legislatures to pass "Granger laws" which placed limits on the power of the railroads. These laws were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court, and the Grange gave way to the Farmers Alliances that drove the early stages of the Populist movement. Many of the issues espoused by the Populists, especially regulation of the railroads and other corporations, were initially brought to the fore by the Grangers.
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