The Science, Technology & Business Division is excited to announce the digital collection of Dun’s Reference Book from 1900 to 1924!
In the Business Reference Section, about 20% of the questions we receive are related to locating information on historical businesses. We use a lot of resources to answer these questions: historical newspapers, city directories and telephone books, industry lists, and insurance maps. One useful resource in our tool belt is the Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book, a credit directory, which is why we are thrilled that the volumes from 1900 to 1924 are now available online!
For those who are unfamiliar with this title, it was published starting in 1859 by the Mercantile Agency, part of R.G. Dun & Company. Dun merged with Bradstreet in 1933 and they continued producing these volumes until 2006.
Unlike other kinds of directories, which are often focused on a particular metropolitan area or type of industry, Dun’s Reference Book collection has national coverage and includes “merchants, manufacturers, and traders” in a wide range of industries from the largest cities to the smallest towns across the United States and Canada.
They published an updated volume four times a year, which is organized geographically by state. Business names are listed alphabetically within each municipality, along with the company’s industry, financial strength and credit rating. While one volume can provide a great snapshot, it’s often useful to look at a series of volumes to see trends over time. This is not an easy task because these are massive print volumes, and those prior to 1965 are stored off-site, meaning we couldn’t take a quick peek. Now though, we’re able to flip through a quarter of a century of these books in our digital collections.
There are many different ways you could use these credit directories:
- Look up a particular company.
- See a list of businesses in a particular city or town.
- Understand the biggest industries in a community.
- Provide more context for your family tree: although the Reference Book listings do not include street addresses or owner names, they do identify the industry and credit capabilities of a family business.
This is just the beginning — while this release focuses on 1900 to 1924, volumes from 1859 to 1899 will be added throughout the year. We’ll be sharing more posts with more detail on how to use this set, so check back soon and let us know if you’ve found any interesting listings!
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