Abstract: One Great Medium? The Segmentation of American Telecommunications, 1907-1920

Richard R. John


My paper reconstructs the first antitrust lawsuit against AT&T and explores some of its implications. Though this lawsuit is often forgotten, the resulting settlement—which was hammered out in December 1913 between attorney general James McReynolds, the independents, and Bell vice president Nathan C. Kingbury—had major consequences not only for AT&T, the Bell-associated operating companies, and its independent rivals, but also for American business, politics, and culture. Indeed, in important ways, it recast for the twentieth century the competitive regulatory regime that in the nineteenth century had done so much to shape the rise of the telegraph and telephone industries in the United States.