Sherman Antitrust Act



Although it was passed in 1890, the Sherman Antitrust Act was not seriously enforced until 1901. Ironically, the only successfully prosecution of the Sherman Antitrust Act during the nineteenth century was not against big business but against labor unions during the Pullman strike of 1894. The government argued that by striking, the railroad workers were placing a restraint on trade and commerce, resulting in a direct violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Then, just a year later, in United States v. E. C. Knight Co., which is known as the Sugar Trust Case, the Supreme Court essentially weakened the Sherman Antitrust Act by ruling that the American Sugar Refining Company was not in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Even though the companyheld 98 percent of the sugar-refining industry in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that manufacturing, such as refining, was a local activity and therefore was not subject to the interstate commerce regulations of the...

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Senator John Sherman of Ohio (Library of Congress)

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