Legislative Branch

Congress and the Money Trust

Summary:

Students study key evidence from the Progressive Era Pujo Committee investigation of the Money Trust that led Congress to pass the Clayton Anti-trust Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the Federal Reserve Act.

Rationale:

Students learn about Progressive Era reform by studying critical evidence from an important investigation. They study a diagram created for the congressional Pujo Committee in 1913 showing the interlocking directorships that prompted Congress to pass the Clayton Anti-trust Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, and Federal Reserve Act.

Background:

From 1890 - 1910 investment banks, such as J.P. Morgan and Co. gained a controlling interest in many major corporations.  The banks influenced corporate decisions by exercising the authority to appoint members of the corporations’ boards of directors. By creating interlocking directorships and trusts (see the definition below) banks coordinated the activities of many companies to act in concert with the goals of the bank.  This network was referred to as the “money trust,” and the public demanded that Congress get to the bottom of it.  Were a few bankers running the whole economy?

The House Banking Committee, led by Chairman Arsene Pujo and investigator Samuel Untermyer investigated the Money Trust of investment bankers and exposed their network of economic influence.  As a result of the Pujo Committee investigation, Congress passed the Clayton Anti-trust Act to ban interlocking directorships, created the Federal Trade Commission to oversee economic competition, and created the Federal Reserve to lessen the control of the Money Trust over the nation's money supply.

Materials:

1 Facsimile (Money Trust Diagram)
Note: For optimal viewing, download the diagram before projecting to the classroom. 

3 Worksheets

Grade level:

9 – 12

Courses:

U.S. History, Government, Economics

Time Required:

Two 45 minute periods

Vocabulary:

Clayton Anti-trust Act, Federal Reserve, Federal Trade Commission Progressive, Pujo Committee, Trust
(See list of definitions below.)

Learning Activities:

Activity 1: Vocabulary and Summarizing the Background

  1. Copy and distribute Worksheet 1 to each student.
  2. Instruct each student to work individually to complete Worksheet 1.
  3. Invite the students to share their findings with the whole class.

Activity 2: Surveying the Money Trust Diagram

  1. Divide the class into small groups
  2. Project the Money Trust Diagram to the whole class or copy and distribute a print out to each group.
  3. Copy and distribute Worksheet 2 to each student.
  4. Instruct groups to work collaboratively to draw information from the Diagram to complete Worksheet 2.
  5. Instruct the groups to share their findings with the whole class.

Activity 3: Interpreting Data from the Money Trust Diagram

  1. Copy and distribute Worksheet 3 to each student.
  2. Instruct each group to work collaboratively to draw information from the Diagram to complete Worksheet 3.
  3. Instruct the groups to share their findings with the whole class.

Vocabulary Definitions:

Clayton Anti-trust Act: Passed by Congress and signed into law in 1914, it banned specific trade practices and outlawed the appointment of “interlocking” boards of directors (illustrated on the Money Trust Diagram) that had given investment banks control over many corporations.
Federal Reserve: A system of 12 regional banks created by legislation signed into law in 1913. The banks are private but supervised by the Federal Reserve Board, whose members are appointed by the President subject to Senate confirmation. Federal Reserve banks receive government deposits and issue currency in the form of Federal Reserve Notes.
Federal Trade Commission: A Federal agency established by legislation in 1914 with the power to issue “cease and desist orders” to corporations found to be using unfair methods of competition in commerce.
Progressivism: Progressivism refers to the type of reforms made in response to economic and social changes in American society caused by industrialization primarily from 1890 – 1920. The Progressive reforms included changes in government, changes in government’s relationship to business, and social reform issues relating to female suffrage, education, working conditions, unionization, urbanization, industrialization, and child labor.
Pujo Committee: The Pujo Committee was a subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Banking. It was formed in 1912 to investigate the Money Trust, a group of investment banks in major cities that were alleged to have control over the nation's major corporations and finances.
Trust: A trust is a group of separate companies brought under the control of a single managing board to reduce or eliminate competition and thereby maximize their joint (or total) profits. For example, Corporation A holds the stock of other individual companies (Corporations B, C, and D), which are joined together under a single managing board of directors to reduce competition and increase profits. The stockholders in the individual companies (Corporations B, C, and D) transfer their stock to the trustees of Corporation A in return for stock in the trust itself. The managing directors of Corporation A control all the individual companies in the trust (Corporations B, C, and D).

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