Over its 143-year history, R.L. Polk & Co. served the United States and its citizens in times of peace and war. The first Ralph Lane Polk served in the Union Army in 1865 as a drummer boy during the last year of the Civil War. After mustering out in 1870, he moved to Detroit and started his company, which would go on to chance the way that Americans do business.
When the United States faced troubling times, R.L Polk & Co. was always ready to rise to the challenge. During the Great Depression, the Polk Company helped New York City publish its much-needed city directory, putting hundreds of people to work gathering information and later publishing and distributing the directory. During World War II, the company converted to wartime services, including compiling part lists and keeping food rations records for the U.S. government. Later, Polk assisted with the 1980 U.S. Census and helped the U.S. Government create and establish its vehicle “VIN” numbering system to keep record of every vehicle manufactured. Polk stationed a key executive in Washington, D.C. to help set up the program that is still in existence today.
Additionally, Polk executives testified several times to help Congress establish its important privacy laws and regulations. Throughout the years, especially before information was widely available via smartphones, the postal service, police, fire departments and other government agencies relied on Polk directories to quickly and accurately locate people.
Today, Polk data, now owned by IHS Markit, is still relied on heavily, often in auto recalls. While no longer the same company, the framework of service to America engrained by Polk has not changed. If Polk could help with anything the country needed, there was never any hesitation.