Clarence Barron, New Owner of the “WSJ”

In June 1887, after 11-years as financial editor of the “Boston Transcript,” where he had increased circulation by 15% due to his reporting, Clarence Barron founded his own company, the “Boston News Bureau,” whose purpose was to disseminate news of the Boston and New York stock exchanges. By 1896, Barron’s news-service boasted 5,123 subscribers and Barron became wealthy.

He was a detailed, obsessive manager. He learned everything there was to know about the history and operations of the country’s leading corporations. His style followed the example of J.P. Morgan, the ruthless Wall Street financier. His policy was to ride his employees until they were broken-in to suit him.

Clarence Barron launched two news bureaus from Boston, and, by the time Dow let it be known from New York that he wanted to sell Dow, Jones&Company, Barron was the most likely buyer. When a tired Charles Dow came to talk about perhaps selling the Dow Jones Publishing Co. and the “Wall Street Journal”, he was no match for a voracious Clarence Barron.

Barron bought the “WSJ” in 1902, but at the time he was much too obsessed with sailing to manage the New York business. Besides, he already had a bureau that reported on the Exchanges and news services that were  doing quite well. No doubt, that not only enhanced his trading posture but kept him from seeing any immediate importance of the “WSJ,” as well. He initially turned the New York job of management to his wife, Jessie Waldron, whom he had married two years earlier. Barron had become dependent on Jessie Waldron in the years he lived in her boarding house. In fact, in order to have her undivided attention, he drove her other boarders away, leaving himself the star boarder. He often listened to her advice, as he did after Dow approached him to buy Dow Jones and Company. He once said, “This woman has surprising ability to suggest just the right action. We sit well into the night, talking about my business problems. After hours of listening, Jessie will quietly say, ‘well, Clarence, it seems to me you should do this…'”

So, Barron decided to buy the “Journal” and give it to Jessie as a gift. He saw her as a woman with business acumen, thus, she should have the opportunity of running her own business. For Jessie, it meant that much of her time would be required in New York running the “Journal.” For Barron, that meant he would have more time to sail his yacht.

In researching my book:  “Observer: The Ronnie Lee and Jackie Bancroft Spencer Morgan Story, a tale of people, greed, envy, manipulation — even crime” I learned much about the history of  the “Wall Street Journal” and enjoyed including some of that history in the book.

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