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New to the Digital Collections: Dun & Bradstreet

Cover page of the Reference Book. July 1901, volume 133. R.G. Dun & Company. Library of Congress Digital Collections.

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.

Businesses in Janesville, Wisconsin. January 1922, volume 215. Reference Book. R.G. Dun & Company. Library of Congress Digital Collections.

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!

Homepage of the website with information about the collection.

Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book Collection. Digital Collections, Library of Congress.

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5 Comments

  1. Carl Fleischhauer
    January 11, 2022 at 8:53 am

    Terrific resource to have available! Many thanks from all us local history buffs.

  2. Justin Crawfis
    May 8, 2022 at 4:15 am

    This is an absolute gold mine of information for local and family history researchers! Thank you so much for digitizing these valuable historical resources. Are there any plans to also digitize the microfilm versions of “Bradstreet’s Book of Commercial Ratings,” for which the Library of Congress holds microfilm of editions published from 1878 to 1933?

    • Natalie Burclaff
      May 9, 2022 at 8:41 am

      We’re glad you’re finding this collection valuable! We do not have plans to digitize Bradstreet’s Book of Commercial Ratings yet, but it may a good candidate for digitization in the future.

  3. Justin Crawfis
    September 5, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks again for making this tremendous resource available! Is there a timeline for the digitization of the 1859 to 1899 editions?

    • Natalie Burclaff
      September 6, 2022 at 8:26 am

      We’re glad you’ve found the current collection (1900-1924) useful. The 1859 to 1899 volumes are currently being scanned. We plan to upload in batches once a 10 year group is ready in order to have the content available more quickly than waiting for the entire four decades, but we don’t have an estimate date yet. We’ll post an update once we do!

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