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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Commercial Telegram Bureaux
by Bill Glover and Steven Roberts


The Commercial Telegram Bureaux was founded in 1869 to supply subscribers with prices of commodities such as wheat, coffee, sugar, jute, wool etc., from markets and exchanges throughout Europe, the USA, and South America.

The company was descended from the publishing business of John Jones (1844–1927). By the age of 27, in 1871, Jones had set up as a publisher  in his home town of Liverpool, producing a cotton trade circular for the immense American and Indian markets in textiles. Within ten years he was employing 25 men and had his own presses in Liverpool, publishing journals and circulars for the textile and shipping industries.

Sometime in the late 1880s Jones moved to the City of London and created, in addition to his publishing business, the Commercial Telegram Bureaux, a worldwide network of telegraphic agencies that collected and collated valuable trade information for the mercantile interest in Britain, Europe, India, Australia and America. It also managed the telegram business of mercantile houses using its own abbreviating code to reduce the costs of intercontinental cable messages.

By February 1890 the Commercial Telegram Bureaux had settled at 11 Tokenhouse Yard, City, EC, whilst its twin company, the Commercial Press Telegram Bureaux, which supplied trade news to the daily and specialised press, was located at 5 Copthall Chambers, Telegraph Street, City, EC.

Commercial Telegram Bureaux cover dated 1937, when
the company was still located at its 1890 address.
[1890 date from The Electrical Engineer, February 14 1890, p.140]

The several businesses flourished and on June 22, 1900, Jones floated Comtelburo Ltd with a capital of £50,000 in £1 shares to purchase his publishing firm and telegraphic agency. This continued under the Commercial Telegram Bureaux title and expanded very successfully, owning and publishing several journals as well as growing the telegraphic agency, particularly in South America.

Only the coming of war intervened, and Comtelburo was acquired in 1944 as a strategic purchase by Reuters Ltd, which was then controlled by the British government. Reuters maintained the name and trade information business until 1966 when its economic information role was absorbed under the Reuters banner.

An advertisement in The Commercial Yearbook, New York, 1900, gives these details of the company’s operations:

Supply, by Automatic Electric Typeprinting machines simultaneously in Rio de Janeiro, and promptly by messengers elsewhere, Official Reports and Quotations of all the leading American, European, Brazilian, and Indian Markets to Stock Exchange Members, and the Cotton, Coffee, Grain, Produce, Provision, Petroleum, Sugar, and Wool Trades of' Europe and America (North and South).

Opening and Closing American and English Stock Exchange, Coffee, Cotton, and Grain Prices, and Weekly Shipments Figures of Grain and Provisions, promptly telegraphed to Subscribers.


Re-transmitted at nearest local rates by London or Berlin Offices (open day and night)

This 1909 advertisement published in The Times gives further details of the company's publishing empire:

1909 advertisement from The Times

Last revised: 22 January, 2010

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