The Legacy of Clarence W. Barron

By Samuel Phineas Upham

One of the most important people in the history of the Wall Street Journal was a young journalist named Clarence Barron, who purchased controlling stock in the Journal in 1902. Circulation at the time was a mere 7,000 but Barron had a background in newspaper reporting and hoped to turn those efforts around.

He’d come from the Boston Daily News, and later from the Evening Transcript. He’d also founded both the Boston and Philadelphia news bureaus in 1897, which put his focus squarely on finance.

Perhaps that is what attracted him to the Wall Street Journal, or maybe the paper represented a blank slate or a fresh start. He purchased Dow Jones & Company for $130,000 after Charles Dow had passed. He appointed himself President of the company in 1912, and held the title until his death. This put him in direct leadership of the Wall Street Journal and gave him great control over the direction the journal was headed in.

He merged the Philadelphia and Boston news bureaus together and worked on expanding circulation of the Wall Street Journal. Two key measures worked in his favor:

The first was fearless journalism. Barron was one of the first journalists to take financial reporting beyond the novelty stage, looking critically at companies listed on the NYSE and investigating their actions. He also benefitted greatly from the modern printing press, which substantially reduced the costs of producing an issue of the Journal.

Unfortunately, Barron died before he got the chance to report on the single greatest financial event to occur around his lifetime. He passed on October 2, 1928.


About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Twitter.

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