The R. G. Dun & Co. credit reports collection is an invaluable resource for understanding the business, social, and cultural world of 19th century America. Founded as the Mercantile Agency in 1841, R.G. Dun & Company, predecessor firm to Dun & Bradstreet, was the first successful commercial reporting agency in the United States and a pioneer in the industry of credit reporting, an important tool in the development of American commerce. Unique in its scale and the breadth of information it contains, the R.G. Dun & Company credit reports consists of 2,522 volumes of handwritten credit reports on individuals and firms from the United States, its western territories, Canada, and a few foreign countries, dating from the 1840s to the 1890s. Entries include information on the duration of the business, net worth, sources of wealth, and, at times, commentary on the reputation of the owners, their partners, and successors.
In 2003, Baker Library received the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation Records, an extensive archive detailing the growth of the company and its predecessors from the 1840s to the late 20th century. The Dun & Bradstreet historical material provides additional resources for understanding the method for collecting the credit data contained in the ledger volumes.
Using the Collection:
Application for Use of the R.G. Dun & Co. credit reports collection -- Researchers interested in using the credit reports collection must complete the application for use form prior to accessing the collection, agreeing to specific guidelines for this collection.
Guide to the R.G. Dun & Co. credit reports collection -- Use the guide to identify volumes relevant to your research project. Please review the scope and content note to understand how the credit report volumes and their accompanying indexes are organized.
Bibliography of Related Sources on R.G. Dun & Company Baker Library holds a large number of 19th and 20th century publications produced by the Mercantile Agency, R. G. Dun & Company, and Dun & Bradstreet.
Name Search Service
Special Collections reference archivists can conduct name searches for business and/or individual names in the R.G. Dun & Co. index volumes for a fee. Search results include the Dun volumes and page numbers for the credit reports, not transcriptions of the credit reports.
To initiate a search request, please contact Special Collections and provide the following information:
- Your research topic and its intended result (dissertation, article, book, etc.).
- A list of names and index volumes to be searched from the guide to the R.G. Dun & Co. credit report volumes.
- An indication of your acceptance of research service fees.
- A completed R.G. Dun & Company credit report volumes application.
Permission to Publish
Researchers should request permission to cite, quote, or use information obtained from the R.G. Dun & Co. collection. The standard format for citing the volumes is State/Territory, Vol. #, p. #, R.G. Dun & Co. credit report volumes, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
Please send Special Collections all text, corresponding footnotes and/or bibliographic citations in which information from the collections has been referred to or used for review. If sending entire documents, the references and citations should be highlighted.
Researchers should allow up to one month for processing their request. Special Collections may need to forward certain requests to publish to Dun & Bradstreet for an additional review.