Who was Charles Barker?
George III's messenger during the Napoleonic wars
Charles Barker was born in Durham, England, in 1791, the son of a lawyer. He worked as a messenger for the English King George III. Following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he managed to return to England quickly with news of Napoleon's defeat. But instead of delivering the news directly to George III, he initially passed on the news to the influential financier of the English government – Nathan Mayer Rothschild. Having learned of Napoleon's defeat, Rothschild took the opportunity to buy large amounts of English government bonds, which had reached new lows on the London stock market, pulling off a spectacular coup in the process.
Early insider trading
Once news of the allied victory broke, the government bonds soon gained in value, resulting for Rothschild in a substantial profit at a time when the concept of insider trading was unknown.1
Soon afterwards Rothschild in return provided Charles Barker and his business partner James Lawson with funding to set up Lawson & Barker, one of the world's first advertising agencies. The company offered newly listed companies the placement and creation services for advertisements in The Times. In the 1830s, Charles Barker took over the firm completely which subsequently traded under his name.
Advertising industry pioneer
During the railway boom of the 1830s and 1840s the agency gained increasing prominence thanks to a string of advertising contracts that were spectacular by the standards of the day. Clients at the time also included non-commercial organisations such as the Seaman's Hospital, The Royal National Institution and London University as well as candidates for Parliamentary elections and their sponsors. Charles Barker died in 1859. His sons took over the company, which continued to trade as Charles Barker & Sons, Advertising Agents.
In 1913, Charles Barker & Sons became a PLC, with the company soon after extending its service portfolio to include the production of advertisements for clients – especially for Rolls Royce. After the Second World War, a production company for advertising films was set up, and other specialised subsidiaries and international offshoots emerged, including the German joint venture Charles Barker GmbH in 1969.
After almost 200 years the name Charles Barker disappears in its home market
In 1986, Charles Barker PLC was floated on the stock exchange. In 1989, the company was split up: management took over the PR activities as part of a buyout, which continued to trade as Charles Barker for several years before finally being taken over by a major (UK) advertising group. The name Charles Barker ceased to exist in its home market just before the turn of the millennium. Today, Charles Barker Corporate Communications GmbH in Frankfurt am Main is the only company to bear the name of the pioneer of financial communications.
1 „[…] the news of the English victory had not reached the stock market; Nathan however had already been informed by his messenger." (Sarkowicz, H./ Sonnenschein, U., 1996. Die großen Hessen. Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, p. 104)