In 1867, a French food research chemist, Hippolyte Mege-Mouries, discovers a process for the manufacture of artificial butter. The dairy industry, fearful that oleomargarine might be substituted for butter without the consumers’ knowledge and wishing to protect its market share, appeal to Congress for help. The result is passage of the Oleomargarine Act of August 2, 1886. Among other things, the Act directs the Secretary of the Treasury to appoint an analytical chemist and a microscopist, both of whom are subsequently authorized to examine samples of butter for adulteration with oleomargarine for appropriate taxation.
Image: First Laboratory Report Sample number 1, dated December 29, 1886, concludes that the first tested sample is pure butter, not adulterated with oleomargarine. (Original document on display at ATF’s National Laboratory Center)