Robert Dun Biography
ROBERT GRAHAM DUN, sole proprietor of The Mercantile Agency, at 314 Broadway, has gained his high financial standing by his extended system for reporting on mercantile credits and by investments in real estate.
Mr. Dun descends from an excellent family of Scotland. For twenty years, his grandfather, the Rev. James Dun, was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland in Glasgow. His father, Robert Dun, received a fine education and was destined for the ministry, but emigrated to America about 1815, settled in Virginia and engaged in practical pursuits, afterward moving to Ohio. He married Lucy W. Angus, who was also of Scotch parentage. Robert Graham Dun was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1826. The young man was educated at the local district schools and academy, and at the age of sixteen, at a salary of $2 a week, began life in the employment of a business house, in which he soon rose to be a partner. In 1850, he removed to New York city, where he
entered The Mercantile Agency then conducted by Tappan &.Douglass. His zeal in the work of the house, his fidelity to duty and intelligence, resulted, in 1854, upon the retirement of Mr. Tappan, in Mr. Douglass admitting him to partnership under the firm name of B. Douglass & Co. In 1859, Mr. Dun bought the interest of Mr. Douglass. Realizing that there must be one controlling head in an organization so complex and extended as that of The Mercantile Agency, Mr. Dun has continued sole proprietor of the business until the present day.
The immense expansion of the internal commerce of the United States which has taken place since 1859, has rendered increasingly necessary the existence of The Mercantile Agency. Under Mr. Dun's ownership, the business of the house has kept pace with the times and grown with the growth of the country. As new cities sprang up in the West and South, their enterprising merchants have felt the absolute necessity of the services of an agency, which should devote its attention carefully to reporting upon credits and incidentally to collections. A large number of branch offices have been established by Mr. Dun, in almost every instance at the request of the local merchants, until now the house is represented in all the distributing centers of the United States and the Canadas and in the leading cities of Great Britain and continental Europe. At many points, the local income is necessarily limited and insufficient to pay the actual expenses of the local offices. Nevertheless, a staff is maintained at each center of trade, thus better to report the locality and make the records for the whole country more accurate and complete. An existence of over half a century has enabled The Mercantile Agency of R. G. Dun & Co. to acquire an experience and accumulate an amount of capital, which enable it to fulfil to the satisfaction of the mercantile community the important duties which it is called on to discharge. The whole business world is acquainted, to a greater or less extent, with its general purposes and system. The Agency possesses many distinctive features of great interest, however, and it yearly secures the support of a growing number of those whose business is such as to require them to extend either confidence or credit.
Mr. Dun has never entered politics, or cared for political preferment. Away from business, he enjoys the pleasures of social life. The winter season is spent by him in New York at a comfortable home in the best residence section of Madison avenue, and in the summer time,. he is often seen at his handsome country house at Narragansett Pier. He is a member of both the Union League and the Manhattan clubs, which are respectively the leading Republican and Democratic social organizations in New York. He is a patron of some of the public institutions of the city.
Henry Hall, ed., America’s Successful Men of Affairs, an Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography (New York: New York Printing Company, 1895) 205-207.