• Last updated on November 10, 2022

From its inception, The Wall Street Journal has provided reliable information for investors. It has become the quintessential source for specific facts as well as detailed studies of companies and industries. The newspaper also reaches beyond the marketplace, covering other areas of concern to its readers.

In November, 1882, two employees of the Keirnan News Agency decided to start their own financial news company. However, to create a successful business, Charles Henry Dow, Charles HenryDow and Edward Davis Jones, Edward DavidJones realized that they needed the abilities and financial contribution of Charles Milford Berstresser, Charles MilfordBerstresser, another Keirnan employee. The three decided on the name Dow Jones & Company[Dow Jones and Company]Dow Jones & Company and set up shop at 15 Wall Street, close to the New York Stock Exchange. Initially, they called on banks, brokerage houses, and the various exchanges to get news tidbits, published as bulletins on flimsies.Wall Street Journal, The

In November, 1883, the firm added the Customers’ Afternoon LetterCustomers’ Afternoon Letter, a summary of the day’s market developments that sometimes contained a hint of financial things to come. Soon the publication had a circulation of more than one thousand and was regarded as an important source of financial news. In May, 1884, the firm purchased a printing press. It was small and cranked by hand, but the printed product was a vast improvement over the handwritten bulletins. By 1889, Dow Jones & Company employed fifty people, including Clarence W. Barron, Clarence W.Barron, its first out-of-town reporter, based in Boston.

The two-page Customers’ Afternoon Letter was insufficient for publishing all the financial news the firm was gathering. Newspaper industryA Campbell flatbed press was purchased, and on July 8, 1889, The Wall Street Journal was born. It was printed daily, except Sundays and stock exchange holidays, during the late afternoon, to include the day’s financial activities. It cost 2 cents per issue, had four pages, and was hand-delivered to a few hundred subscribers. Policies of the newspaper were clearly stated, including its aim to be a paper of news, not opinion, and to provide a “faithful picture” of financial news on Wall Street.

The newspaper was unique in that it printed statistical and financial information not available in other daily publications. Its motto, “The truth in its proper use,” reflected the newspaper’s credo not to be influenced by advertisers or speculative interests. Reporters were warned against trading slanted stories for inside tips on stocks. On April 18, 1893, the paper moved to larger quarters to accommodate its growing circulation. By 1898, the first morning edition was published, and The Wall Street Journal was printing more than financial news. If something had the slightest impact on the economy, it was included. In 1902, Barron purchased Dow Jones & Company for $130,000. Within eight years, the circulation of the newspaper more than doubled from 7,000 to 18,750. Barron broadened The Wall Street Journal’s geographic presence by linking it with newspapers he owned in Boston and Philadelphia.

A National Newspaper

In the summer of 1929, The Wall Street Journal’s circulation had risen to nearly 50,000, and the financial future of both the newspaper and the country looked good. It appeared that each crisis in the stock market benefited circulation because people needed to know what was happening, and in October, the paper launched its Pacific coast edition, becoming the first daily to be published on both the East and West coasts. Although circulation increased in 1930 to 52,000, with another 3,000 subscribers to the Pacific coast edition, the impact of the Depression was soon felt. By 1933, the circulation of the combined editions was 28,000 subscribers; publisher Kenneth “Casey” Hogate, Kenneth “Casey”Hogate decided the paper could no longer support two editions and, in September, 1934, dropped the evening edition. Other changes instituted by Hogate both rescued the paper from bankruptcy and paved the way for its transition from a financial to a business daily. New features included stock market quotes and columns, such as “Heard on the Street,” “Mirror on Washington,” and “What’s News.”

Under Bernard Kilgore, BernardKilgore, Hogate’s successor, the paper was revitalized and became the nation’s first national daily. Kilgore knew that to increase circulation, the paper had to change from a financial trade publication to a general newspaper, specializing in business and financial news. The December 8, 1941, issue, with its feature article on the implications of war for business, proved the newspaper was more than a stock-market-oriented publication; it was a national newspaper. The newspaper broadened its news coverage, included a wider range of subjects, and introduced new columns. A key feature on the front page explained the “whys” behind selected news events and how they affected business. In 1947, the paper won its first Pulitzer Prize.

A Global Newspaper

In the summer of 1970, a Harris Poll proclaimed The Wall Street Journal America’s “most trusted” newspaper, and by November, 1975, the paper was the first to use satellite technology, simultaneously printing the paper in eighteen plants throughout the country. Because of its increased coverage of news beyond the financial, the newspaper continued to grow in circulation and size. The Asian Wall Street Journal was launched in 1976 in Hong Kong, and The Wall Street Journal’s European edition began publication in 1983.

Over the years The Wall Street Journal has continued to evolve. It has redesigned its front page, added color and photographs, and established an online presence. With its reputation for independence and integrity, The Wall Street Journal is the authoritative resource for business, local and global, and its excellence in both financial and general news coverage has earned more than thirty Pulitzer Prizes. The purchase of the newspaper by international media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 2007, for $5 billion, began another era for an American icon of publishing.

Further Reading
  • Crossen, Cynthia. “It All Began in the Basement of a Candy Store.” The Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2007, p. B1+. A lengthy article, detailing the history of the newspaper, from the founders to Rupert Murdoch.
  • Crovitz, L. Gordon. “Publisher’s Letter: Embracing Change to Build on a Tradition of Excellence.” Wall Street Journal, January 2, 2007, p. G1. Discusses changes in the paper and its basic credo.
  • Dealy, Francis X., Jr. The Power and the Money. New York: Carol, 1993. A history of the newspaper, its successes, and its failures.
  • Rosenberg, Jerry M. Inside The Wall Street Journal. New York: Macmillan, 1982. Focuses on individuals who developed the newspaper, editors, and their accomplishments.
  • Wendt, Lloyd. The Wall Street Journal. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1982. Detailed history of the newspaper, centering on people who shaped it.

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