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Historical Highlights

The Clayton Antitrust Act

October 08, 1914
The Clayton Antitrust Act Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Serving nine terms in the House of Representatives, Henry Clayton of Alabama resigned from the House to serve as a federal judge.  He was later appointed to the U.S. Senate, but the appointment was challenged and he withdrew.
On this date, the 63rd Congress (1913-1915) passed the Clayton Antitrust Act (P.L. 63–212) in a bid to curb the power of trusts and monopolies and maintain market competition. By the turn of the 20th century, large corporations had cornered whole segments of America’s economy using predatory pricing, exclusive dealings, and anti-competitive mergers to drive local businesses to ruin. In Congress, Members decried the evils of monopolies, including Representative Robert Crosser of Ohio who warned that a “failure to check the growth of monopolies…will result in industrial slavery.” Representative Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky dubbed the trusts “offensive organizations.” Most agreed that government regulation of the trusts was too lenient and rallied around the Clayton Antitrust Bill when Representative Henry Clayton of Alabama introduced it in 1914. Representative John J. Casey of Pennsylvania remarked, “I realize and appreciate the importance of this bill, because I believe it is one of the most important that has or will come before this House for consideration.” The Act supplemented and strengthened the Sherman Act of 1890, an existing antitrust bill that had failed to effectively regulate the massive corporations. The newly created Federal Trade Commission enforced the Clayton Antitrust Act and prevented unfair methods of competition. Aside from banning the practices of price discrimination and anti-competitive mergers, the new law also declared strikes, boycotts, and labor unions legal under federal law. The bill passed the House with an overwhelming majority on June 5, 1914. President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law on October 15, 1914.

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