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Making the Case for the Dun’s Review

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It is likely that few readers of this blog have ever heard of the title Dun’s Review. I had never heard about it before coming to the Library, but I am glad I “discovered” it.

Dun’s Review was a general business publication from Dun & Bradstreet. The articles and columns ran the gamut of topics, but many of them were an outgrowth of the data the company collected as part of the Reference Book of American Business.

Many of the articles and columns were focused on the stock market and general economic numbers, but one topic – business failures – came up quite often. For example, in the January 7, 1905 edition they ran a piece titled “Failures in 1904” that included a table listing quarterly statements of failures from 1875-1904 with the number of failures as well as the amount of liabilities. Another chart provided data by state for the years 1903 and 1904. It was common for issues to include information on monthly failures, often by industry groups. Eventually, Dun & Bradstreet published separate publications devoted to business failures.

chart of Quarterly business failures with numbers for number of failures, amount of liabilities, and average liability by year and for each quarter
Quarterly business failures 1875-1904. Dun’s Review, January 7, 1904 p4.

Beyond all the economic and business failures charts, they also ran articles on other business topics and current events. Some of them were more historical, like one from May 1941, “1841: The Year of Prophets” by A. M. Sullivan and two written by Roy A. Foulke in 1942, “Colonial America: A Financial Experiment” (March) and “From Wampum to Continental Currency” (February). Here is a sample of articles to give you a sense of what they published:

  • The Role of Management as Innovator (September 1941)
  • Christmas Trade Breaks All Records (January 1942)
  • The Business Movie Industry – What it is and Who Uses It (October 1941)
  • War Comes to the Grocery Store (May 1942)
  • National Defense and the Corner Store (March 1941)
  • Color-Conditioning in Modern Industry (July 1942)
Two oats on flatbed rail cars with workers walking around
Higgins shipyards, New Orleans, Louisiana. John Vachon, 1943.

I am always on the lookout for historical sources that report on government contracts, so I was excited by the articles related to defense contracts and military spending’s impact on the economy in 1941 and 1942 that paint a picture of U.S. government and military acquisitions just before the U.S. entered World War II. Two from 1941 were particularly interesting, given they were published not long before Pearl Harbor. There was also a special issue published in June 1941 with the following articles:

  • Defense Dollars and Consumer Markets
  • Defense Contracts, Summary
  • State Totals for Defense Contracts
  • Influence of Defense Contracts on Consumer Purchasing
  • Notes on Localities Affected by Defense Program
  • Government Financed Defense Plant Expansion
  • Defense Contract Information

Later, in November 1941, there were a few other interesting tables and articles:

  • Contract Awards by States, Per Cent of Total
  • Contract Awards and Labor Supply by States
  • Awards and Payments, Cumulative, by Month
  • Influence of Defense Contracts on Consumer Purchasing in 100 Industrial Areas
  • Defense Plant Expansion Privately Financed
  • Notes on Localities Affected by the Defense Program – Effects in 750 Communities

For anyone researching business history topics, Dun’s Review might be a good one to remember.


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