Issues of the Mind

In observing the history of the Bancrofts, owners of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones publishing empire for over a century, you find Hugh Bancroft, the first in line, with what is now known as clinical depression. If not brilliant, this man was highly educated. At 14, he entered Harvard (1894). He received his BA in three years and his Master of Arts a year later. Three years later, he had graduated from Harvard Law School. By the time Hugh Bancroft was 21, he had earned three degrees from Harvard. However, depression haunted the man until he finally took his life at age 53. It was October, 1933, and the height of the American economic depression. Hugh was then the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

Hugh Bancroft’s first child, Mary Bancroft, knew by the time she was a young woman that she had psychological issues that she must address. She longed to have known her mother who died at child-birth. She experienced her father’s depression by observing him going into isolation for weeks at a time, refusing to speak to anyone, as she waited for him to snap out of it and the light to shine again. She was a victim of grandparent wrangling as each side fought for control of her; on one side was her maternal Irish Catholic grandparents; on the other, the Congregationalist Boston blueblood Bancrofts.

Fortunately for Mary Bancroft, as she lived in Zürich, married to a Swiss business man, she met psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. They became good friends, and he counseled her for four years. She became a strong woman, worked in intelligence for the U.S. leading up to and into WWII, and later became a leader on women’s issues. Her father never had the benefit of treatment. In Boston, in his position as publisher, at a time when mental illness was seen as an unacceptable weakness, his depression had to be kept secret.

I write of the history of the Bancrofts and the Wall Street Journal in my book:  “Observer: The Ronnie Lee and Jackie Bancroft Spencer Morgan Story, a tale of people, greed, envy, manipulation — even crime”.

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