chapter  4
23 Pages


The structure of American industry began to change in the mid 1870s at a speed that stunned contemporaries. It threatened, and outraged, enough of them to cause a wave of “ antimonopoly’ ’ agitation culminating in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890-whose vague language outlawing restraint of trade “ in the form of trust or otherwise” simply led industrialists and financiers to look for ways of combining companies through new legal devices. By the late 1890s the corporate revolution had transformed the American business system. Small businesses persisted in the hundreds of thousands, but the dominant form of enterprise in terms of economic power and social impact was now the large corporation serving a national market. Ail the big business characteristics we know today were becoming evident-increasing scale of operations, formal separation of ownership from actual control, complex management structures and multiplant organization, and growing concentration of the output of many industries in a handful of firms.