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The Robber Barons and the Sherman Antitrust Act: Reshaping American Business (2009)

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During the decades following the Civil War, the economy of the United States experienced phenomenal growth. At every turn, in agriculture, shipping, merchandizing, manufacturing, and transportation, a new American system of production and distribution was born. As the economy grew, so did the personal wealth of a handful of intrepid investors, dealmakers, and Wall Street financiers. A new class of business leaders was born, dominating their sectors of the nation’s ever-expanding industrial base. To some, they were the mighty titans of industry. To others, they were greedy robber barons. As the American people came to question the robber barons’ self-serving business practices, observers called for reform. The call was answered in 1890 with the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act, a piece of legislation designed to bring down these controlling interests in the U.S. economy.