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Company Financial Information: Company Histories

Researching the History of a Company

If you are interested in researching the history of a public or private company, NYPL offers many useful resources to assist you. The history of a public company through mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs or other financial transactions are a matter of public record and not hard to find (at the least, the SEC will have a record). The history of a private company may be more difficult to locate, as the terms are not required to be reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If you are researching an old stock certificate, you can also search by the company's state of incorporation, or their transfer agent (the certificate will list both). Every state in the U.S. has a Division of Corporations, which maintains records for all businesses (public and private) incorporated there. Many states provide an online database of their corporation records, though sometimes only in a certain timeframe, which may not include all of their records on paper. Many of these databases are free to use, but a few states charge a modest fee for an online search.

For older stock certificates, you may want to contact the state's Division of Corporations by phone or e-mail and inquire directly. The state of New York's Corporation & Business Entity database can be found here.

If your stock certificate no longer has value as a traded security, it may nonetheless have value as a collectible. There is a market for old stock certificates as collectibles, for historical interest or aesthetic value as an object. Many collectibles dealers who appraise old stock certificates have websites or advertise online.

Electronic Resoucres Available at NYPL

Print Resources Available at NYPL

Capital Changes Reporter is available in the Business Center's reference collection in Financial Services. A series of spiral-bound records, the Reporter is updated only through 2011, unlike the up-to-date electronic edition.

Directory of Obsolete Securities (formerly Annual Guide to Stocks) | *R-SIBL HG4927 .F5 | Print compilation kept in Financial Services. The Directory is the remaining portion of the Annual Stock Guide, a part of the Library Reference Service. It contains 'brief profiles' of a very broad range of U.S. securities affected by name changes, mergers or acquisitions, or bankruptcy.  It includes judgments as to whether a stock has any remaining value.

Hoover's Masterlist of U.S. Companies is available in the Business Center's reference collection, with the call number HF5035.H66

Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable & Worthless Securities / Marvyn Scudder Manual of ... Companies | This set of print volumes was the first attempt at an encyclopedic compilation of details about extinct companies.  Starting in 1926 the service has very brief entries for companies, including a date of dissolution. Its main feature is that it includes very small, private companies.Our set, from 1926 - 1983, is shelved at * R-SIBL HG4927.R64 in Financial Services.

External Resources

The SEC's EDGAR database includes electronic copies of all filings from pubic companies incorporated in the United States, starting from 1996.
The SEC also offers a quick guide to researching old stock certificates.