November 14, 2009

The Barron of Wall Street

Clarence Walker Barron (1855-1928) is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of Dow Jones & Company. As a career newsman he was described as a "short, rotund powerhouse," but he died holding the posts of president of Dow Jones and de facto manager of The Wall Street Journal.
He is appropriately considered the founder of modern financial journalism.

Barron was graduated from Boston English High School in 1873. He was married to Jessie M. Waldron in 1900 and would adopted her daughters, Jane and Martha, and they lived at 334 Beacon Street in Boston's Back Bay. He was generous to charity and endowed the Clarke School for the Deaf with two million dollars. Jessie Waldron Barron died in 1918 and his adopted daughter Jane Barron married Hugh Bancroft in 1907, and Martha Barron married Henry Wendell Endicott, heir apparent to the Endicott Shoe Company. Barron worked at a number of newspapers throughout his life, including the Boston Daily News and the Boston Evening Transcript. He founded the Boston News Bureau in 1887 and the Philadelphia News Bureau in 1897, supplying much needed financial news to brokers.
In March 1903, Barron purchased Dow Jones & Company, following the death of co-founder Charles Dow. In 1912, he became president, and had control of The Wall Street Journal. Barron was renowned for pushing for deep scrutiny of corporate financial records, and is thus considered the founder of modern financial journalism. Barron's personal credo, which he supposedly urged the Journal to print and to closely follow, was that "The Wall Street Journal must stand for what is best in Wall Street." He was to expanded the reach of his publishing empire by merging his two news bureaus into what was to become known as Dow Jones. By 1920, he had expanded the daily circulation of The Wall Street Journal from 7,000 to 18,750, and over 50,000 by 1930. He also worked hard to modernize operations by introducing modern printing presses and expanding the reporting corps.

In 1921, he founded the Dow Jones Financial Journal, Barron's National Financial Weekly, which was later to be renamed Barrons Magazine and he served as its first editor. He priced the financial magazine issues at ten cents and immediately saw circulation surge to 30,000 by 1926, with high popularity among investors and financiers. Barron was a prolific writer and published a large number of books, among them The Boston Stock Exchange (1893,) Federal Reserve Act (1914,) The Audacious War (1915,) The Mexican Problem (1917,) War Finance, As Viewed From the Roof of the World in Switzerland (1919,) Peace Finance (1920,) Lord's Money (1922,) Twenty-Eight Essays on the Federal Reserve Act and My Creed. The Barrons and their daughter Martha Barron Endicott and her husband H. Wendell Endicott share a large family lot on Milton Hill at Forest Hills Cemetery.
After his death, Barron's myriad responsibilities were split between his son-in-law Hugh Bancroft, who became president of Dow Jones & Company, and his friend Kenneth C. Hogate, who became the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. The Bancroft Family remained the majority shareholder of Dow Jones until 2007 when Rupert Murdock's News Corporation won the support of 32 percent of the Dow Jones voting shares controlled by the Bancroft family, which was enough to ensure a comfortable margin of victory. In his book My Creed, Clarence Walker Barron expounded upon his thoughts:

I believe in service. I believe in the laws, in the happiness, in the mutuality of service. I know no other happiness, I know no other laws. There is no other happiness; there are no other laws. In The Wall Street Journal, I have sought to create a service. I have striven for a creation so founded in principles that it can live as a service—live so long as it abides in the laws of that service. I believe there is no higher service from government, from society, from journalism than the protection and upbuilding of the savings of the people. Savings in the United States may become investments, when guided by financial knowledge, more readily than in any other country of the world. Wall Street steadily improves and increases its service to the whole country by reflecting the true position of American and world investments. The Wall Street Journal must stand for the best that is in Wall Street and reflect that which is best in United States finance. Its motto is: "The Truth in its proper use."

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