Save for an authorized centennial appreciation from Lloyd Wendt in 1982 and the odd memoir, the history of The Wall Street Journal is something less than an open book. Scharff remedies this lack with an engaging, episodic account of the fourth-estate phenomenon and how it grew. The author tracks the Journal's course from its parochial origins when Charles Dow and Eddie Jones joined forces to provide New York City's burgeoning financial community with stock-market reports to latter-day eminence as flagship of a publishing empire. In a switched-on video age, the all but pictureless Journal is a media marvel. It reaches readers from Manhattan to Manila, with a US circulation topping 2 million--the largest of any American dally. While perhaps not ""the diary of the American dream,"" the influential Journal comes as close as any one publication can to setting the nation's socioeconomic agenda. To Scharff, the WSJ's history is largely the story of the men who shaped and ran it. The male-dominated roll call reaches from Clarence Barren (""the founder of financial journalism"") to Casey Hogate, first of the corps of DePauw University grads to put the paper on a broader-gauge track, and his protÃ‰gÃ‰ Bernard (Barney) Kilgore, the journalistic genius who broke the business mold after WW Il, endowing the WSJ with something very like mass appeal. Among those playing key roles in recent years are Warren Phillips (atypical in his Eastern/Jewish background, but now CEO of the parent company and a former managing editor); abrasive Dan Dorfman (whose aggressive stewardship won the ""Heard on the Street"" column a wide following among traders and investors); and R. Foster Winans (the hapless homosexual at the center of the Journal's first public scandal). Profiled as well are Jude Wanniski (an ex-editorialist who helped popularize supply-side economic theory) and Robert Bartley (also a Reaganomics partisan and the paper's current editor). At the close, Scharff's narrative tails off inconclusively with vague allusions to the possibility that an increasingly institutionalized Journal may be losing some momentum. Before running out of steam himself, though, he offers a lively, evenhanded report on a distinct press presence.