Our History

Almost two centuries of growing relationships through data

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To help American merchants in their decision-making, an enterprising businessman named Lewis Tappan began, in 1841, to establish a network of correspondents that would function as a source of reliable, consistent and objective credit information. His Mercantile Agency, located in New York City, was one of the first organizations formed for the sole purpose of providing business information to customers.

Benjamin Douglass enters the business. To foster expansion, in 1849 Tappan turned the Agency over to Benjamin Douglass, a former clerk. Douglass capitalized on the improved transportation and communication of the time by expanding his network of offices, essentially providing the Agency with both new customers and superb information.

The credit reporter — a new profession (for future Presidents). Shortly after he joined the agency, Benjamin Douglass began establishing local offices and hiring full-time employees who became experienced, skilled reporters and interpreters of credit information. Working as a credit reporter was a respected position that provided strong training in sound business practices. Among the reporters who went on to establish names for themselves were four U.S. presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and William McKinley.

A strong competitor – and a new name. In 1849, the rival John M. Bradstreet Company was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two years later, the Bradstreet organization popularized the use of credit ratings with publication of the first book of commercial ratings. The rivalry between The John M. Bradstreet Company and Douglass' agency intensified as the U.S. entered the 20th century. Fundamentally, this had lasting effects on the fate of the two organizations.

In 1859, Douglass turned over the Agency to his brother-in-law, Robert Graham Dun. Under the new name, R.G. Dun & Company, Dun continued Douglass' relentless expansion. During the next 40 years, Dun led the Agency all over the United States and across international boundaries, carrying Lewis Tappan's vision into the next century.

A Historic Merger

As America entered the 1930's, the effects of rivalry and economic depression on both R.G. Dun and The Bradstreet Companies could no longer be ignored. In 1933, the arch competitors merged to form Dun & Bradstreet. The merger was engineered by Dun's CEO Arthur Whiteside. Using his first-rate diplomatic skills, Whiteside was able to broker a deal with the company's long-lasting and foremost competitor. Whereas previously both companies sold "products," Whiteside increasingly emphasized "service." With great leadership, he led Dun & Bradstreet out of the depression and into the Information Age.

Technology-Fueled Growth

The rapid development of computing and communications technology in the post-war era has been central to the growth of Dun & Bradstreet. During the past 50 years of Dun & Bradstreet’s history, increases in the speed and volume of cross-border communications have influenced our evolution from a provider of credit reports to a leader in the international information industry.

The 1960's - 1970's: A time of explosive growth. Whiteside's successor, J. Wilson Newman, recognized that Dun & Bradstreet needed to take risks and increase its range of products and services. Overall, Dun & Bradstreet expanded dramatically during the 1960's by engineering ways to apply new technologies to evolving operations. In 1963, the introduction of the Data Universal Numbering System – Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number – to identify businesses numerically for data-processing purposes helped bring business information into the computer age. This unique business identification system proved so useful that today the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number has become a standard business identifier for the United Nations, the European Commission and the U.S. Government.

By the 1970's, Dun & Bradstreet had established its commitment to new technology. A new "Advanced Office System" (AOS) fully computerized our data-collection operations, providing the ability to link and analyze categories of information in entirely new ways, and to deliver information to customers faster and more economically.

A New Millennium, A New Dun & Bradstreet

Dun & Bradstreet has undergone a period of restructuring in recent years, creating a more tightly focused company. Just before the turn of the century, A.C. Nielsen, Cognizant, Reuben H. Donnelley and Moody's Corporation were all spun off to allow each company to pursue focused strategies for its specific business.

In February 2014, Dun & Bradstreet launched a new strategy to drive long-term sustainable growth and to become one global company delivering indispensable content through modern channels to serve new customer needs. We are focused on the commercial marketplace, helping our customers and partners to build their most valuable relationships by continuing to be the world's largest and best provider of insight about businesses.

300 Million Business Records … and Counting

We also are constantly expanding the size and improving the quality of our global database. In late 2015, our global database exceeded 300 million businesses worldwide. And we believe in accompanying those quarter-billion records and associated analytics with the high-quality service that is our hallmark.

Fun Facts

What infamous movie actress seductively posed with the Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book in the 1953 movie “How to Marry a Millionaire”?

Answer: Marilyn Monroe

What four U.S. Presidents worked for Dun & Bradstreet?

Answer: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and William McKinley

What Steven Spielberg film released in late1997 covers the story of Lewis Tappan and his crusade to defend the rights of slaves?

Answer: “Amistad”

What year was the D-U-N-S Number born?

Answer: 1963

Who was this 1863 Dun & Bradstreet journal entry about: “Is not much of a businessman, but had some capital, it is said, advanced by his father, who is reputed well off”?

Answer: J.D. Rockefeller – who turned out to be a good credit risk; 1863 was the year he set up a refinery that blossomed into Standard Oil.

What ‘Cheers’ and film actor temped for Dun & Bradstreet as a receptionist?

Answer: Woody Harrelson

Which Dun & Bradstreet founder was the great grand nephew of Ben Franklin?

Answer: Lewis Tappan

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