First Credit Rating Agency

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.

Tappan spotted the need for a centralized system to evaluate the creditworthiness of businesses, both far and wide. Assembling a network of correspondents from every corner of the country, The Mercantile Agency delved into the financial health and stability of businesses, collecting invaluable insights. These findings were meticulously compiled into credit books, which were then snapped up by eager subscribers looking to make well-informed decisions when extending credit.


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.


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