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Dun & Bradstreet History

Credit Suite - Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dun & Bradstreet is by far the biggest business credit reporting agency. They are commonly known as D&B. They provide information on businesses and corporations for use in credit decisions. D&B is a publically traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. D&B’s headquarters is in Short Hills New Jersey. 

D&B roots track all the way back to 1841, with the formation of the Mercantile Agency in New York. In 1933, the Mercantile Agency joined with R.G. Dun & Company and became known as Dun & Bradstreet.  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.

To foster expansion, in 1849, Tappan turned the Agency over to Benjamin Douglass, a former clerk in his company. 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.

A strong competitor, 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 the Douglas Agency intensified as the United States entered the 20th century.

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. In 1933, the arch competitors merged to form D&B. The merger was engineered by Dun's CEO Arthur Whiteside. Whiteside led D&B out of the depression and into the Information Age.

In 1963, the introduction of the Data Universal Numbering System helped bring business information into the computer age. By the 1970's, D&B had established its commitment to new technology. A new "Advanced Office System" fully computerized 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.

D&B has undergone a period of restructuring in recent years, designed to make D&B a smaller, more tightly focused company. 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 October 2000, D&B launched an ambitious new plan called the Blueprint for Growth — a strategy designed to transform itself into a growth company with an important presence on the Web.

Four US Presidents were former employees of Mercantile Agency, which later became D&B which are Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and William McKinley. All four of these past presidents worked as credit reporters. Some other very well-known people also have had associations with D&B. Marilyn Monroe posed with the Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book in 1953 from the movie “How to Marry a Millionaire”. Woody Harrelson temped for D&B as a receptionist and Lewis Tappan, one of D&B’s founders, was the great nephew of Ben Franklin.

D&B maintains a database of over 213 million companies globally. In 2012, D&B reported that 129.4 million of these records referred to active companies that were available for risk, supply, sales and marketing decisions. Another 76.7 million were inactive companies, providing historical information for file matching and data cleansing.

Dun & Bradstreet has a massive presence worldwide with their business records spanning the globe, over 54 million records are from Europe, over 33 million from North America, over 27 million records from Asia Pacific, over 12 million records from Latin America, over 1 million records from Africa and over 1 million records from the Middle East.

Dun & Bradstreet has had offices in Australia since 1887, New Zealand since 1903, Mexico since 1896, Argentina since 1911, Venezuela since 1920, Brazil since 1933 and Peru since 1981. It has several offices in India as well, with its head office in Mumbai.

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