The R. G. Dun collection is one of our most heavily used collections. It’s a collection of—well, R. G. Dun is the predecessor firm for D & B, Dun & Bradstreet. And it’s this amazing collection of 2,500—over 2,500 credit ledgers, arranged by state, and within state by county.

R. G. Dun was the first credit reporting company in the United States. And as such, there really was no precedent as to what defined “good credit.” So rather than just numbers, in terms of your financial status, what the Dun ledgers include is an assessment of your character; what your mores are, and how you’ve conducted your business. So that there are long narratives on individuals, as well as companies.

The ledgers themselves cover the period from the 1840s to the 1890s, and they also are a broad stroke. It’s anyone who applied for credit, so it may be people who have an enormous amount of wealth, who are very well-known, like a J.P. Morgan, a Rockefeller, but it’s also anyone who started a small enterprise who needed credit. So they’re a tremendous resource, particularly for people who are looking for documentation of women in business, looking at particular ethnic groups, for example, freed slaves, etc. You can gain a depth of information that really is impossible through other resources.

And for that reason, any time that you come into the Beaubien Reading Room, you can pretty well count on at least 50 percent of the people in the room looking at these very large, over-sized ledgers. So it really accounts for an amazing amount of the research that’s done, and really phenomenal variety of kinds of works that are written using the Dun ledgers. Just a tremendous range.