Neither financier nor broker Charles Dow was a journalist. The stock averages he devised provided a window for outsiders to view the market; Wall Street types were welcome to use it, but they were not his chief concern.
When Dow came to Wall Street, the investment market of choice was bonds. Investors liked securities that were backed by real machinery, factories and other hard assets. They felt reassured by the predictability of income that bonds offered, as well as the specific dates of maturity when their principle would be returned. The stock market, by contrast, dealt in "shares of ownership" which had no specific claim on anything a company owned.
This site chronicles how Charles Dow devised the now famous Dow Jones stock averages, and how they developed from 1884 to 1995. Besides terminology that may sometimes leave the uninitiated scratching their heads, this site is a good starting point for understanding the history and function of today's stock exchanges. The short and rather basic story of Charles Dow's average is supplemented through links to information such as lists of companies tracked by each of the Dow Jones averages, an explanation of the OTC market and Nasdaq, and listing standards for the New York Stock Exchange. A table also lists historical records for the NYSE. The navigation within the site is not facilitated by tabs, a side bar, or search tool, but the site is small enough to navigate easily.