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Senate amendment to H.R. 15613, An Act to create a Federal Trade Commission (Federal Trade Commission Act), August 5, 1914

In 1911 the United States Supreme Court ordered Standard Oil to dismantle 33 affiliate companies, despite weaknesses revealed in the Sherman Antitrust Act during the legal process. To strengthen federal regulations regarding trusts and monopolies, Congress passed the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. These Progressive-Era laws still form the core of U.S. antitrust legislation.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Senate amendment to H.R. 15613, An Act to create a Federal Trade Commission (Federal Trade Commission Act), August 5, 1914

Ida M. Tarbell: Exposing Standard Oil

The rise of corporate trusts and monopolies in the Progressive Era spurred Congress to legislate regulations on business practices. The first such law, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, met its greatest test in a case against the Standard Oil Company. Journalist Ida M. Tarbell brought the company’s shady dealings to light, and the federal government sued Standard Oil. The Supreme Court ordered Standard Oil’s breakup in 1911, but only after more narrowly defining illegal monopoly. Congress strengthened antitrust laws with the Federal Trade Commission Act and Clayton Antitrust Act.

We, the people of the United States, and nobody else, must cure whatever is wrong in the industrial situation, typified by this narrative of the growth of the Standard Oil Company.

Ida M. Tarbell, The History of the Standard Oil Company, 1904