Six of the seven volumes in this collection contain hand-written "credit reports" compiled by St. Louis area correspondents or reporters for the R. G. Dun Company from the early 1840s to the mid 1880s. These correspondents would usually file a report twice a year about numerous individual businesses in St. Louis (and other cities) to record information on the condition of each business. These reports would also be sent to the Dun Company's office in New York City. An entry on a particular business could contain information on that business over a 40 year period. These reporters' notes not only provide an interesting glimpse into the mercantile life of St. Louis during the middle and later portions of the 19th century, but they also provide valuable information about the social and cultural history of the area during that same period.
The six original volumes found in this collection are only part of the total set that had existed at one time on businesses in the St. Louis area. Thus, entire segments of the St. Louis business community are not represented in the volumes in the collection. Some of the volumes contain book numbers and a "table of contents" identifying the categories of business covered in that volume. Other books have no numbering or contents list. From examining the notations in the books on several of the companies, it appears that correspondents compiled and kept "old" and "new" books on these St. Louis businesses. From looking at the volumes in this collection, it is impossible to tell precisely the relationship among the various volumes or whether a volume belongs to the "old" or "new" set. Nevertheless, these books do provide important, first hand accounts of life in St. Louis during the 19th century.
The seventh volume in the collection is a more modern (1955) Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book on American businesses.
The most complete collection of R. G. Dun credit report ledger books, both for St. Louis and the rest of the United States, may be found in the R. G. Dun & Co. Collection at the the Baker Library of the Harvard University Business School. (www.library.hbs.edu/hc/collections/dun/)