Broken Trusts
The Texas Attorney General versus the Oil Industry, 1889-1909
Business History - American History
6.125 x 9.25, 360 pp.
15 b&w photos., 7 line drawings.
Pub Date: 07/17/2002
Kenneth E. Montague Series in Oil and Business History
Price:        $49.95 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

To Receive E-News


Broken Trusts

The Texas Attorney General versus the Oil Industry, 1889-1909

By Jonathan W. Singer

Nineteenth-century editorial cartoons often pictured government and industry hand-in-hand. Yet as early as 1889 Texas had enacted an antitrust law to curb the power of monopolies, and in the first years of the industry that would bring untold riches to the state, the attorney general used that law against oil trusts to a surprising extent.

Ironically, for most of the first twenty-five years following the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act, federal enforcement efforts were extremely limited, leaving the field to the states. Texas was one of several states that had strong antitrust laws and whose attorneys general prosecuted antitrust violations with vigor. Political ambition was a factor in the decisions to investigate and prosecute cases against a highly visible target, the petroleum industry, but there was also a genuine belief in the goals of antitrust policy and in the efficacy of enforcement of the laws.

In Broken Trusts, Jonathan Singer offers the definitive study of the formative period of antitrust enforcement in Texas. His analysis of the state attorney general’s use of antitrust law against the oil industry in this time of transition from agricultural to industrial society provides insights into the litigation process, the gap between the rhetoric of trust-busting and the reality of antitrust enforcement, and also the changing roles of state government in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The experience of Texas undermines the view that federal action has always dominated antitrust enforcement efforts and that antitrust litigation against Standard Oil was ineffectual. Rather, the results of the Texas attorney general’s litigations suggest that some states took their role in the dual enforcement scheme seriously and that the measure of success of antitrust enforcement goes beyond the amount of monetary penalties collected and the number of companies permanently ousted from a state.

This volume will be valuable to those interested in the effects of the Sherman Antitrust Act, as well as those concerned with the evolution of the Texas attorney general’s office.

Jonathan W. Singer is an attorney for the Missouri Court of Appeals and lives in Saint Louis, Missouri.

What Readers Are Saying:

“...a valuable resource for anyone interested in early-twentieth-century Texas oil and politics.” --Journal of American History

“There have been a handful of other books and articles analyzing state antitrust enforcement during the late nineteenth century, but the literature on this front remains too small. And in this sense, Broken Trusts is a welcome and needed addition to an underdeveloped area of study.” --EH.Net

“...this copiously detailed book...” --American Historical Review

“Singer seeks to correct historians’ focus on the failures of federal antitrust activity during this time in order to see that, in fact, some states had willingly taken up the torch, and he rightly points out that similar action on the part of the states is well in evidence today.” --American Historical Review

“Singer is extraordinarily careful in detailing the narrative of the courtroom dramas.” --American Historical Review

“Jonathan Singer’s work is as complete a look at the workings of early antitrust enforcement as is possible for a text that remains fully accessible.” --Western Legal History

“All will enjoy the portraits that Singer draws of the personalities involved, as well as his insight into the politics of a legal regime that is so fundamentally intertwined with our free-market experiment.” --Western Legal History

“Singer’s book is too densely packed with interesting reading to do it justice in a brief review. As an antitrust practitioner, I greatly enjoyed the historical look at this body of law. Although required to wade through the fact-intensive narrative, I reiterate that the book can and should be enjoyed by all.” --Western Legal History

Broken Trusts is informative, exhaustively researched, and colorfully written. Singer demonstrates a keen understanding of the nature of the early Texas oil industry, as well as a relationship between regulation and antitrust activities. . . Broken Trusts is a valuable addition to the scholarship of antitrust law enforcement, especially of the oil industry. Historians of the oil industry, and the history of Texas, should find it useful.” --Western Historical Quarterly


John Hill for the State of Texas
Landmark Speeches of the American Conservative Mov
Frank Springer and New Mexico
From a Watery Grave
Review Copy Request Form Desk Copy Request Form