Robber Barons was the name given to exceptionally successful business people in America during the late 19th and early 20th century. Most of the Robber Barons came from humble backgrounds, and started businesses at times when many industries were beginning to grow substantially.
Robber Barons were both admired as people who became rich and powerful, yet hated as monopolists who exploited their workers. In fact, these Barons were able to create such a large divide between rich and poor that Jay Gould, a gold and railroad Baron, once allegedly said “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”
In 1890, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed, the first law enacted to limit the exploitation scope of the Robber Barons’ business practies. The Sherman Act outlawed monopolies and anything which unreasonably restricted trade, such as price fixing. Over the following decades, more business regulations were enacted, bringing the reign of the Robber Barons slowly to an end.