Trust Busting

From Ohio History Central

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was a massive wave of industrialization across the United States. One product of this era was the rise of "big business." Within certain industries, large corporations emerged. Some of these corporations were able to decrease or even eliminate competition by organizing themselves into monopolies. A trust was a way of organizing a business by merging together rival companies.

Progressive reformers believed that trusts were harmful to the nation's economy and to consumers. By eliminating competition, trusts could charge whatever price they chose. Corporate greed, rather than market demands, determined the price for products. Progressives advocated legislation that would break up these trusts, known as "trust busting."

One example of trust busting at the national level was the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, passed in 1890. The federal government could use this law to attack corporations whose business interests crossed over state lines. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to regulate or break up a number of American businesses, including Standard Oil.

Ohio created its own anti-trust legislation. The state legislature passed the Valentine Anti-Trust Act in 1898. Although this law was a step towards the regulation of big business, it proved to be difficult to enforce. Most large corporations operated in multiple states. In order to curb these companies' monopolistic tendencies, each state had to have anti-trust laws. In the long-term, it was more effective to combat trusts at the federal level instead.

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