Reset A A Font size: Print

United States Supreme Court


No. 184

Argued: March 9, 1915Decided: March 22, 1915

Messrs. John Winston Read and Thomas J. Christian for plaintiff in error.

Mr. Christopher B. Garnett, and Mr. John Garland Pollard, Attorney General of Virginia, for defendant in error. [236 U.S. 697, 698]  

Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff in error was convicted of peddling without a license. His defense was that, if applied to his dealings, the Virginia law would interfere with commerce among the states, contrary to article I., 8 of the Constitution. The facts are as follows. The Empire Art Institute of New York sent soliciting agents to Virginia, who took orders on a blank furnished by the company. These blanks stated that the company would place a limited number of a 'new Aquarell Portrair' 'at cost of material, India Ink $1.98 and Water Color $3.96,' and the one exhibited went on: 'On or about Apr. 10, 1911, we agree to deliver to the holder of this contract a fully finished Ink Portrait _____ x _____ as shown by our salesman. Mrs. T. P. Morrisette agrees to pay $1.98 for the portrait when delivered. We do not compel you to take frames from us but owing to the delicate nature of the work all portraits are delivered in appropriate frames which this ticket entitles you to select at wholesale prices.' On receipt of such order the company shipped the portrait when prepared, and, in a separate parcel, frames suitable for them, to an agent, in this case the plaintiff in error. The latter put the pictures into appropriate frames and then delivered the portraits, offering the customer a choice of three different styles of frames, the customer taking one or not, at his will.

The court below thought that the purchase of the frames was to be regarded as a separate transaction, occurring wholly in Virginia. Whether or not this was its technical aspect as an executed contract, it often has been pointed out that commerce among the states is a practical, not a technical, conception. The preliminary contract bound the company to furnish a chance to take a frame with the portrait. Obviously it was contemplated that the frames would be sent from New York as well as the pictures, as [236 U.S. 697, 699]   in practice they were, and although the bargain was not complete until the company's offer was accepted in Virginia, the furnishing of the opportunity was a part of the interstate transaction. From the point of view of commerce, the business was one affair. Dozier v. Alabama, 218 U.S. 124 , 54 L. ed. 965, 28 L.R.A.(N.S.) 264, 30 Sup. Ct. Rep. 649; Crenshaw v. Arkansas, 227 U.S. 389 , 57 L. ed. 565, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 294; Browning v. Waycross, 233 U.S. 16, 21 , 58 S. L. ed. 828, 832, 34 Sup. Ct. Rep. 578.

Judgment reversed.

Copied to clipboard