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This Month in Business History

Dun & Bradstreet Founded

G. R. Hall, engraver. Lewis Tappan, half-length portrait, seated, facing right. 1875. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The company now known as Dun & Bradstreet can be traced back to July 20, 1841 when Lewis Tappan formed the Mercantile Agency in New York City. In the late 1840's Tappan turned the running of the company over to Benjamin Douglass and in 1859 it was incorporated under a new name - R.G. Dun & Company when Robert Graham Dun purchased the company. And later in 1931 when it purchased the National Credit Office, it reorganized under the name R.G. Dun & Corporation.1

Concurrently, in 1849 John M. Bradstreet formed the Bradstreet Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Bradstreet Company popularized the use of credit ratings with publication of the first book of commercial ratings circa 1851. The company moved to New York in 1855 and began publishing their own version of Duns popular title.2

In February of 1933 Dun & Co and Bradstreet began negotiations to merge and they merged the next month. A notice on page 5 of the Wall Street Journal of March 16 gave notice that the company would now operate under the name R.G. Dun-Bradstreet (in 1939 changed to Dun & Bradstreet Inc.).3 In 2001 they officially changed their name to D&B in 2001 as part of a branding effort.

One of the most well know things about the company is their signature D-U-N-S® number system. This system, the Data Universal Numbering System, was introduced in 1963 and began as a seven digit number system.4 According to a May 1963 New York Times article, early companies assigned numbers were Union Carbide, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, and Bobbie Brooks, Inc.5 In 1964 they published a code book with the individual codes that continued until 1968 and the numbers made their first appearance in the Million Dollar Directory in 1969.

The company has continued to expand and operates offices worldwide. It continues to offer a wide array of products both in print and increasingly electronically. Their print Million Dollar Directory became a web product renamed Selectory® and later Relationship Manager. Lewis Tappan died in 1873 but the company he started continues to provide information on companies.

Print Resources

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Library of Congress Digital Resources

The following resources created and digitized by the Library of Congress can be used to find out more about Lewis Tappan as well as the events of the day.

Select D&B Publications

The titles listed below are just a few of the publications published by the company over its long history. Business Reference staff compiled Dun and Bradstreet Publications at the Library of Congress to provide information about selected Dun and Bradstreet business publications in the Library of Congress with brief description and summary of the Library's holdings.

Internet Resources

These freely available online resources provide more information on the topic.

Search the Library's Catalog

Additional works on this topic in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the topics you wish to search from the following list of subject headings to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search for the subject selected. Please be aware that during periods of heavy use you may encounter delays in accessing the catalog.

You can also search for additional publications by the company by searching on the company


  1. International Directory of Company Histories. St. James Press: Detroit, c1988- p 80-81. Back to text
  2. Dun and Bradstreet Company History. External Back to text
  3. “Dun & Bradstreet, Inc.” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 1933. Back to text
  4. Dun and Bradstreet Company History. External Back to text
  5. Fowler, Elizabeth M. “Business is Joining in a Numbers Game.” New York Times: May 26, 1963. Back to text