At the tail end of the 19th century, boasting a list of business contacts made reporting on gold and silver prospecting in a Colorado mining town called Leadville, Charles Dow left the frontier for the nation’s financial hub, New York City. He found a job at the Kiernan News Agency, a service that distributed handwritten business news to banks and brokers, where he met two fellow financial reporters, Edward Jones and Charles Bergstresser. In 1882, the three jumped ship to form a publishing venture of their own.
Poor Bergstresser. Not only did he bankroll Dow Jones ; Company with the savings he’d acquired by working his way through college, but he also
gave the company’s publication, a daily two-page financial news bulletin called the Customer’s Afternoon Letter, a more lasting appellation: The Wall Street Journal. But “Bergstresser” was deemed too long to be included in the company’s name, and so when Dow invented his stock index 14 years later, he wasn’t compelled to name it the Dow Jones Bergstresser Industrial Average.
Dow had created a stock average based on eleven companies for the Letter
, but his average almost entirely comprised railroad companies. For the Journal, in 1896, Dow used twelve companies and expanded into the American economy’s bustling industrial sector, companies with names like National Lead and U.S. Rubber. The first measurement of the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 40.94, and it sagged back down close to that number at 41.22 points in 1932 during the throes of the Great Depression. Forty years later the index broke 1,000, and today it’s barreling down on the 9,000 mark.