I’ve had the book The Growth of the American Republic (volume two) by Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager (1962) for a long time and I just recently began reading it to increase my knowledge of second half of 19th century USA history.
In relation to the growth of railroads and trusts after the Civil War, the Supreme Court ruled on the ability to regulate interstate commerce. I was struck by the following quote from a Court decision as it relates to the current issue of Net Neutrality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality), and thinking about how we should regard the internet as a public utility:
When private property is affected with a public interest it ceases to be juris privati only… Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence, and affect the community at large. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants to the public an interest in that use, and must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good, to the extent of the interest he has created. (Munn v Illinois 1876)
By the way, this 50 year old book is pretty interesting, well-written, obviously with a liberal lean.
The parallels between then and now are obvious too. The new Guilded age is here.