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Company Research: Company Histories

Researching company histories

  • Twentieth century U.S. company histories can be challenging to trace because much of the information prior to 1990 is not digitized and remains in print, microfiche or CD formats.  
  •  U.S. public company issued annual reports and their filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are one of the best sources for company history but no institution has a comprehensive annual report collection.   ProQuest’s Historical Annual Reports cover only 800 companies.  Electronic company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are accessible only from about 1996, while earlier documents, if available, can only be requested from the Commission’s office.  Most of the annual report collections of the major research libraries are limited in size and are not digitized.
  • In the twentieth century Moody's Manuals and Standard and Poor's Corporate Descriptions were the core sources summarizing business and financial information about U.S. public companies and major foreign corporations.  Annually since 1906, Best’s Insurance Reports published the financial condition of major U.S. insurers.   
  • Mergent, Inc. purchased the Moody’s Manuals enabling their content from the early1900s to the present to be electronically accessible through the Mergent WebReports.  Contact a librarian if the digital copies are not readable or are omitted.
In June, 2014, the Kresge Business Administration Library will only offer electronic resources.  Its print, microfiche, and CD materials* will be permanently moved to the University of Michigan Library or the Law Library.  Before beginning your research, consult a Kresge Librarian on the availability of these resources.

Best Resources for Historical Company Reports

Historical U.S. Company Issued Reports

Annual Reports at Academic Business Libraries

  • Index to the corporate Annual Reports to Shareholders at the following universities: Columbia U., Cornell U., Harvard U., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue U., Stanford U., U. of Alabama, U. of California-Berkeley, U. of Pennsylvania, U. of Western Ontario, Yale U., and the Science/Industry/Business Library of New York Public Library.  Contact each institution about accessibility.
  • Lippincott Library at the University of Pennsylvania  offers direct online access to a limited number of historical annual reports from 1800 to 1955

Annual Reports: 1973-1992.  Library Bureau. R&R Division of Remington Rand, Inc. ( Microfiche)*

Annual Reports: Pre-1973. Library Bureau. R&R Division of Remington Rand, Inc. ( Microfiche)*

  • Both collections include company issued reports

Historical U.S. SEC Regulatory Filings

U.S. SEC EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System) ; 1996 - present

  • Required regulatory filings of U.S. domestic public company and foreign private issuers offering securities on U.S. exchanges from 1996 to the present.  Some companies might have filed as early as 1993
  • For historical copies of statements not available online, submit to the SEC a request form.  Fees will be assessed 
  • For optimal use, review Researching Public Companies through EDGAR: A Guide for Investors 

Compact D/SEC. Bethesda, MD : Disclosure Inc., c1989-2006. (CD-ROM)*

  • Financial and other information contained within Annual Reports, Proxy Statements, and 10-K/20-F filings for over 12,000 public US companies
  • Ten years of annual and the last 8 years of quarterly information

10K Reports.  Bethesda, MD: Disclosure Inc. ;  1968-1991 (Microfiche)*

  • Collection also includes proxies and prospectuses

Historical International Company Reports

International Annual Report Collection Ann Arbor, Mich. : University Microfilms.  1983-1989. ( fiche)*

  • Company issued annual reports 
  • Covers major companies operating in Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South Americas 

Worldscope Global . Bethesda, MD : Disclosure Inc . 1994-2006. (CD-ROM)*

  • Financial information of 10,000 companies in 40 countries
  • Update monthly with ten years of annual data

Global Access Pro  Bethesda, MD : Primark Corporation (McLean, VA.  1991-2002. (CD-ROM)*

  • Image and text versions of annual reports, 10-K and 8-K reports, and other SEC filings for United States and international companies

Additional

International Directory of Company Histories.  Chicago : St. James Press, c1988-* (print)

  • Major U.S. and international companies spanning  over 150 print volumes
  • Brief history and important events; no financials

CIRR/Corporate & industry research reports index . Eastchester, N.Y. : JA Micropublishing, c1983-1991. ( fiche) *

  • Research reports about major U.S. and global companies by securities and institutional investment firms.
  • Company and industry index available

Best’s Life Insurance Reports. Oldwick, N.J. : A.M. Best Co. 1906/07-present * (print)

Best's life insurance reports, 1906/07-1967/68
Best's insurance reports. Life-health, 1969-1993
Best's insurance reports. Life-health United States, 1994-2002
Best's insurance reports. Life/health, United States & Canada, 2003-2013

  • Major U.S. and Canadian insurance companies, fraternal benefit societies and assessment associations
  • Brief corporate history, officers, assets, liabilities and financials, operating and investment data, and various Best’s evaluative ratings

Appendix: Moody's Manuals

 Although the majority of the Moody's Manuals can be electronically accessed through Mergent Web Reports,  access to print or fiche copies might still be required because the government and municipal manuals are not included and some scanned pages are not readable.  Request a librarian for assistance in locating these sources.

BANK AND FINANCE *

  • Moody's Manual of Investments, American and Foreign. Banks, Insurance Companies, Investment Trusts, Real Estate, Finance and Credit Companies  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1928-1954. 
  • Moody’s Bank and Finance Manual. New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1955-2000; (print; Fiche) 
  • Mergent Bank & Finance Manual  New York : Mergent, 2001-2013 (print)

GOVERNMENT AND MUNICIPAL *

  • Moody's analyses of investments. Part III, Government and municipal securities . New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1918-1920 (fiche)
  • Moody's analyses of investments and security rating books. Government and municipal securities  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1921-1925 (fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments and security rating service. Foreign and American government securities .  New York : Moody's Investors Service 1926-1928 (fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments, American and foreign. Government securities .  New York : Moody's Investors Service,  1929-1954 (print; fiche)
  • Moody's municipal & government manual . New York : Moody's Investors Service,  1955-1999 (print; fiche)

INDUSTRIAL AND PUBLIC UTILITIES *

  • Moody's analyses of investments. Part II, Public utilities and industrials. New York : Analyses Pub. Co., 1914-1919. (fiche) 
  • Moody's analyses of investments and security rating books. Public utility investments  New York : Moody's Investors Service,1921-1925 (print; fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments and security rating service. Public utility securities.   New York : Moody's Investors Service,1926-1927 (print)
  • Moody's manual of investments, American and foreign. Public utility securities New York : Moody's Investors Service,1928-1953 (print; fiche)
  • Moody’s public utility manual  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1954-2000 (print; fiche)
  • Mergent public utility manual New York, N.Y. : Mergent, 2001-2002  (print)
  • Mergent public utility and transportation manual  New York : Mergent,  2003-2013 (print)
  • Moody's analyses of investments and security rating books. Industrial investments. New York : Moody's Investors Service 1921-1925 (print; fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments and security rating service. Industrial securities New York : Moody's Investors Service,  1926-1927 (fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments, American and foreign. Industrial securities  New York : Moody's Investors Service,1928-1953 (print; fiche)
  • Mergent industrial manual  New York, N.Y. : Mergent, 2001- (print)

INTERNATIONAL *

  • Moody's international manual.  New York : The Service, c1981-  (print; fiche - missing)

OVER THE COUNTER (OTC) *

  • Moody's OTC industrial manual.  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1970-1999 (print; fiche)
  • Moody’s OTC unlisted manual.   New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1986-2000 (print; fiche)
  • Mergent OTC unlisted manual.   New York : Mergent, 2001-2013 (print)

TRANSPORTATION *

  • Moody’s analyses of railroad investments . New York : Analyses Pub. Co. ; London : Fred C. Mathieson & Sons, 1909-1912 (print; fiche)
  • Moody's analyses of investments. Part I, Steam railroads .  New York : Analyses Pub. Co., 1913-1919. (print;fiche)
  • Moody's analyses of investments. Part I, Railroad investments New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1920 (print)
  • Moody's manual of railroads and corporation securities  New York, Moody Manual Co. [etc.] 1918-1923 (print)
  • Moody's analyses of investments and security rating books. Railroad investments  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1921-1925 (fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments and security rating service. Railroad securities New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1926-1927 (print; fiche)
  • Moody's manual of investments, American and foreign. Railroad securities New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1928-1953 (print; fiche) 
  • Moody's manual of investments, American and foreign. Transportation  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1952-1953 (print; fiche)  
  • Moody's transportation manual  New York : Moody's Investors Service, 1954- 2000 (print; fiche) 
  • Mergent transportation manual  New York : Mergent, Inc., 2001-2002 (print) 
  • Mergent Public utility & transportation manual  New York : Mergent,2003-2013 (print)

Appendix: Standard & Poor's Standard Corporation Descriptions

Standard & Poor’s Corporation Records 1989 to present in LexisNexis Academic. As of the present date, Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage also offers over ten years of archived Corporation Records. For search assistance, see Librarian.

Poor’s  New York, NY : Poor's publishing company [etc.], 1918-1941 *
  • Brief history and financial statements of railroads, public utilities, industrials, banks, fiscal institutions, governments and municipals
  • Poor's publishing company in 1919 took over Moody's manual (begun in 1900) and merged with it with Poor's manual of public utilities (issued 1913-18) and Poor's manual of industrials (issued 1910-18)
  • In 1941, Standard Statistics merged with Poor’s Publishing and established Standard & Poor’s. Poor’s volumes were discontinued and replaced with an annual titled Standard Corporation Records.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine archives internet web pages since 1996.

Type business entity's url and examine website changes over time.

Company Histories, Memoirs, Analysis

Select Books to learn how to find company histories, memoirs, biographies and other historical analysis.

Pre-Internet Periodical Indexes

Prior to 1994, before the internet was widely accessible, company research was conducted using special online databases or multi-volume print indexes covering thousands of publications.  Use these indexes to locate older articles about company histories and events.

Business Periodicals Index  1958-1996

Predicasts F & S Index United States  1979-1992

Predicasts F & S Index. International annual. 1979-1992