Rev Ind Organ (2011) 38:223–224
Introduction: The Centennial of the Standard Oil
of New Jersey Decision
John Howard Brown
Received: 21 January 2011 / Accepted: 9 February 2011 / Published online: 22 February 2011
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011
This special issue of the Review contains papers that are inspired by the centennial of
the Supreme Court’s decision favoring the US Department of Justice in the Standard
Oil of New Jersey case.
Prior to the Standard case, it would not be too strong a state-
ment to claim that the Sherman Act had failed as a deterrent to monopolistic conduct.
After all, gigantism in industry proceeded apace in the two decades following the Act
with ever larger ﬁrms created by merger.
The Standard Oil case, and the American Tobacco case
which was decided the same
year, ended the headlong race towards monopoly in large segments of manufacturing.
What is more, the relief that was granted to the government was unprecedented. Never
before had a ﬁrm been required to disgorge prior acquisitions where those acquisitions
involved actual operating companies as opposed to stock.
The effect of these decisions was electric. As Clark and Clark (1912, p. 3) observed,
“We know today that we can dissolve trusts—that we can break up big corporations
into smaller ones—and this is distinctly more than we once knew”. The result was,
ﬁrst, the passage of subsequent antitrust legislation in the form of the Clayton Act
and the Federal Trade Commission Act, which were designed to strengthen and
broaden the reach of antitrust. Subsequently, antitrust enforcement was a distinctive
feature of the twentieth Century American economy until at least the 1970s when the
Chicago School view of antitrust became accepted as the conventional wisdom.
US v. Standard Oil Company of New Jersey et al. 221 US 1 (1911).
US v. American Tobacco Co., 221 US 106 (1911).
It should be noted that a Chicago contribution to the discourse on antitrust was to raise substantially
the intellectual rigor of subsequent competitive analysis of ﬁrm behavior. See e.g. Kwoka and White
J. H. Brown (
School of Economic Development, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA