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This Month in Business History

Clayton Antitrust Act Enacted

American Press Ass'n, N.Y.. Henry De Lamar Clayton, three-quarter length portrait, facing left, seated at desk. 1910. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The history of the Clayton Antitrust Act goes back over 20 years prior to passage of the law. In an effort to prevent anticompetitive practices, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. This was the first Federal law outlawing practices that were harmful to consumers and looked to prevent or curtail monopolies, cartels, and trusts. One of the consequences of that law was a wave of mergers and impacts on Labor.

Then came the Pujo Committee, a congressional subcommittee of the House Committee on Banking and Currency that was formed to investigate the so-called "money trust" that held hearings in 1912 and 1913. The findings of the investigation led to several changes including the ratification of the 16th Amendment, the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, and a movement to further strengthen antitrust laws.

Representative Henry De Lamar Clayton Jr. a Democrat from Alabama introduced H. R. 15657, the Clayton Antitrust Act (Pub.L. 63–212, 38 Stat. 730) in 1914 as An Act To supplement existing laws against unlawful restraints and monopolies, and for other purposes.

It sought to prevent anticompetitive practices even earlier by targeting price discrimination, limit further mergers & acquisitions, and limit membership on boards of companies in particular situations. The Act also had a provision for any contemplated mergers and acquisitions in certain situations. The Law was passed on October 08, 1914.

The Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 are the foundation of antitrust laws in the United States and are codified in Title 15 of the United States Code. Later revisions to antitrust law came with the passage of the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 and Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (PDF, 2.5 MB).

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The following resources created and digitized by the Library of Congress can be used to find out more about the debate and passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act as well as the events of the day.

Internet Resources

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