100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Meat Trust Broken Up

Anti-competition laws date back to Roman times. It was in the best interests of governments and people that no one entity should control an entire industry. The first anti-competition legislation of modern times was enacted in 1889 by Canada – The Act for the Prevention and Suppression of Combinations formed in restraint of Trade. A “combination” was a term for a monopoly because a combination of companies would unite to control an industry. A year later in 1890 the US passed the Sherman Act named after US Senator John Sherman. The act sought restrict large companies who cooperated with rivals to fix prices and market shares through pools and later through Trusts. This first appeared within the railroads which required so much capital for construction it precluded competition which allowed railroads to discriminate on rates imposed and services provided to consumers and businesses and destroy potential competitors.

Progressive presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft have used the Sherman Anti-trust Act to go after many trusts. These have included giants like Standard Oil and the American Tobacco Company to smaller combinations like the Bathtub Trust and the Playing Card Trust. In all Roosevelt sued 45 companies and Taft has sued over 70. The result is usually the breaking up of these giant companies into several smaller companies. One of the issues that turned “trust-buster” Roosevelt against his hand-picked successor Taft in the up-coming presidential election was that Taft has allowed Trusts to participate their own reorganization.

In 1902 the leading Chicago-based packing companies agreed to merge into a giant corporation called the National Packing Company. National Packing soon bought up smaller meat companies acquiring 23 stockyards and slaughtering plants nationwide Eventually they had control over about 10% of the US meat production. The company owned branches in over 150 cities around the world along with a fleet of 2,600 refrigerated railcars.

On July 20, 1912 the National Packing Company dissolved and handed out its assets to three members – Swift & Company, Armour & Company and Morris & Company in order to avoid action by the US Department of Justice. The National Car Line Company has likewise dissolved its refrigerated car company.

Canned meat from the National Packing Company

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