Clarence Walker Barron (July 2, 1855 – October 2, 1928) is one of the most influential figures in the history of Dow Jones & Company. He is considered the founder of modern financial journalism. As a career newsman described as a "short, rotund powerhouse," he died holding the posts of president of Dow Jones and de facto manager of The Wall Street Journal. Barron's legacy continues today not only in the magazine that bears his name, Barron's Magazine, but also in the standards for financial journalism—intense scrutiny of corporate financial information—that he pioneered.
His notes of conversations, which revealed how closely connected and how significant a role he played as confidant to leading financiers from New York City society, were published as They Told Barron (1930) and More They Told Barron (1931). Criticized by some for being too close, and abusing these connections for personal gain as well as support for the unrestrained speculative boom that led millions of Americans to invest heavily in the stock market in the 1920s. Barron died before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, believing in what he wrote and the role that his papers played in support of the American Dream.
Clarence Walker Barron was born on July 2, 1855, in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston's Graduate English High School in 1873. In 1900, he married Jessie M. Waldron and adopted her daughters, Jane and Martha. After Jane married Hugh Bancroft in 1907, Barron became a prominent member of the aristocratic socialite Boston Bancroft family. Martha Barron married H. Wendel Endicott, heir apparent to the Endicott Shoe Company.
Barron's career was in journalism. He began in 1875 as a reporter with the Boston Transcript and quickly recognized the importance of financial news. His most significant work was with Dow, Jones and Company, of which he became the owner and president. Through this, he became the editor of The Wall Street Journal, the nation's leading financial newspaper, and also founded his own paper, Barron's Magazine. In addition, he authored a number of books.
Jessie Barron died in 1918. Clarence Barron died in Battle Creek, Michigan, on October 2, 1928. The Barrons and the Endicotts are buried in a joint family plot at the historic Forrest Hills Cemetery south of Boston.
After Barron's death, his responsibilities were split between his son-in-law Hugh Bancroft, who became president of Dow Jones, and his friend Kenneth C. Hogate, who became the managing editor of the Journal. The Bancroft family remained the majority shareholder of Dow Jones until July 31, 2007, when Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. took control of the company.
Barron worked at a number of newspapers throughout his life, including the Boston Daily News and the Boston Evening Transcript, the latter from 1875 to 1887. He founded the Boston News Bureau in 1887 and the Philadelphia News Bureau in 1897, supplying financial news to brokers. He became the first out-of-town correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.
In March 1902, he purchased Dow Jones & Company for $130,000, following the death of co-founder Charles Dow. In 1912, he appointed himself president, a title he held until his death and one which allowed him control of The Wall Street Journal. Although holding such a powerful position, Barron continued to operate as a reporter:
C. W. Barron never ceased being a reporter, and perhaps some of the cubs hearing him refer to himself as 'a reporter' thought he was joking, but he preferred that title even though he was 'big chief'. —Oliver J. Gingold, longtime reporter for The Wall Street Journal
In addition to his journalism, Barron also authored several books on topics related to international finance and world affairs, including War Finance (1919) and World Remaking (1920). His writings were often controversial. In 1917, Barron published The Mexican Problem, juxtaposing the economic potential of Mexico's resources against his belief in the racial inferiority of the Mexican people.
Barron was renowned for pushing for deep scrutiny of corporate financial records, and is thus considered the founder of modern financial journalism. For example, in 1913, he gave testimony to the Massachusetts Public Service Commission regarding a slush fund held by the New Haven Railroad.
His claim to fame came in 1920, when he investigated Charles Ponzi, inventor of the fraudulent Ponzi scheme, for the Boston Post. His aggressive questioning and common-sense reasoning helped lead to Ponzi's arrest and conviction (Goebel 2008).
Barron expanded the reach of his publishing empire by merging his two news bureaus into 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.
Barron's personal credo published in My Creed, which he supposedly urged the Journal to print and follow, urged The Wall Street Journal to stand for what is best in Wall Street:
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.'
As well as stating his personal maxims, Barron stated what he believed was the goal and purpose of financial journalism, exhorting those in the business to follow this standard:
If we are live wires, we can so project financial truth that it will, at times, illumine the path of the investor. We should not usurp his prerogative of selecting, guessing or predicting but should steadily seek to illuminate his forward path.
You are in the field to defend the public interest, the financial truth for investors and the funds that should support the widow and the orphan.
In 1921, he founded the Dow Jones financial journal, Barron's National Financial Weekly, later renamed Barron's Magazine, and served as its first editor. He priced the magazine at ten cents an issue and saw circulation explode to 30,000 by 1926, with high popularity among investors and financiers.
Barron's legacy continues today not only in the magazine that bears his name but also in the standards for financial journalism—intense scrutiny of corporate financial information—that he pioneered.
They Told Barron (1930) and More They Told Barron (1931), two books edited by Arthur Pound and S.T. Moore, published after Barron's death showed his close connections and his role as a confidant to top financiers from New York City society, such as Charles M. Schwab. As a result, he has been called "the diarist of the American Dream." (Reutter 2005, 148)
He was a master of finance, adamant in demands for accuracy to the last detail in a complicated financial situation. —Kenneth C. Hogate, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal
No one worked harder than Mr. Barron in an effort to educate the people as to the real values of securities and finance in general. He exposed what was bad and exploited what was good. —William E. Hazen, author of Broad Street Gossip
However, he has also been criticized for being too close to those he covered:
Barron owned Dow Jones until he died in 1928, and his Journal was one of the loudest cheerleaders of the stock market run-up of the 1920s that led to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. Barron was too close to many of the Wall Street titans whom his newspaper covered. As former Forbes and Columbia Journalism Review editor Marshall Loeb wrote for Time magazine in 1988, "Clarence Walker Barron, 5 ft. 5 in. and 300 lbs. in his prime, was a high-living, big-investing champion of unrestrained capitalism who improved the Journal's standards while ordering up stories promoting companies whose shares he owned." The Journal's slogan in the early 20th century was the "Newspaper for the Investor," with Barron being that investor in many cases (Roush 2008).
Barron did evidence some philanthropic tendency. For example, he helped endow the Clarke School for the Deaf with two million dollars, and proposed naming it the Coolidge Trust after President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace. (Roberts 2004, 225)
Clarence W. Barron's former Boston mansion is located at 334 Beacon Street, on the banks of the Charles River. The property was converted into condominums in the 1980s, but to this day the mansion is well-maintained. On March 31, 2007, a portrait of Clarence W. Barron was donated to the Beacon on the Charles Condominium Trust, and is now prominently displayed on the parlor level of his former Beacon Street home.
All links retrieved February 24, 2017.
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