In 1841, in the bustling heart of New York City, entrepreneur Lewis Tappan laid the groundwork for the first credit rating agency: The Mercantile Agency.
In the early 19th century, American business was conducted locally, where merchants and businessmen knew each other well. As a result, when a merchant wanted to buy on credit, the businessman would assess their creditworthiness based on the merchant’s local reputation. Railroads changed everything. With thousands of miles of track connected far-flung regions of America, business transactions shifted from a local to national scope. Merchants transacted with customers they had not met from towns they had not visited.
Over time, The Mercantile Agency evolved into the renowned R.G. Dun & Co., which, in a twist of fate, merged with its primary competitor, the Bradstreet Company, in 1933. This merger marked the birth of the modern credit rating powerhouse we now know as Dun & Bradstreet.