Document Type


Journal Title

Essays in Economic & Business History

Publication Date



Recent research shows that, despite high interest rates, wage earners in the early twentieth century frequently obtained credit from retail shops, from loan sharks, and from the emerging formal consumer credit market. When wage earners defaulted, the options for collection available to their creditors were governed by state laws on garnishment and wage assignment. These important laws varied widely from state to state, and little is known about their origins or evolution. In Illinois, the law put significant restrictions on creditors in the late nineteenth century, but the restrictions were removed in the first quarter of the twentieth century. This article shows how this dramatic shift resulted from the interaction of legislative and judicial activity and was driven by both interest group politics and judicial action.


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Publisher Statement

First published in 1976, annually since 1983, and currently in its 40th year of publication, Essays in Economic & Business History now operates as an online open access journal. Articles for the journal are selected by double blind review process. EEBH provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.