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Proprietary Interest: Merchants, Journalists, and Antimonopoly in the 1880s

John, Richard R.

It has long been conventional for historians to trace the late nineteenth-century antimonopoly movement to the grievances of farmers and laborers outraged by the excesses of big business, making it, as it were, the latest installment in a perennial contest between the many and the few. This oft-told story is not entirely mistaken. Farm and labor publications had lambasted railroad corporations since at least the 1870s. Yet it is oversimplified and in certain factual details misleading. This essay surveys how an earlier generation of Americans thought about monopoly, what it proposed to do about it, and why its assault upon big business took the form that it did.

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Media Nation: The Political History of News in Modern America
University of Pennsylvania Press

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August 1, 2018