Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds the R.G. Dun & Co. credit report volumes and the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation records as well as a large number of 19th- and 20th-century publications produced by the Mercantile Agency, R. G. Dun & Company, and Dun & Bradstreet.

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, the 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 R.G. Dun & Co. 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.

Common Abbreviations used in the R.G. Dun & Co. credit report volumes 

Bibliography of Mercantile Agency, R. G. Dun & Company, and Dun & Bradstreet publications
The Library of Congress has digitized a large portion of Dun's Reference Book. Volumes can be found online at the Library of Congress site

Special Collections and Archives reference staff can conduct name searches for up to 10 business and/or individual names in the R.G. Dun & Co. index volumes per fiscal year. 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 Archives with a list of names and index volumes to be searched from the guide to the R.G. Dun & Co. credit report volumes and take the following steps

  1. Complete the R.G. Dun & Company credit report volumes application.
  2. Request the volumes via HOLLIS Special Request.

Staff may ask for additional information on your research topic in order to ensure the name search service will meet your needs. 

Searches may take up to a month. Special Collections and Archives staff will provide a timeframe when a request is submitted. 

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 and Archives 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 and Archives may need to forward certain requests to publish to Dun & Bradstreet for an additional review.