Four men named Ralph Lane Polk would head the family company before tragedy struck in 1985. Just four years after becoming president, the founder’s great-grandson Ralph Lane Polk IV disappeared and was presumed dead in a boating accident on Grand Traverse Bay in northern Michigan. His brother Stephen, 15 years younger at age 29, would […]
The Polks were one of Detroit’s earliest prominent business families. Ralph Lane Polk, the founder, obtained financing in 1872 for his first directories from James Scripps, who would later go on to publish the Detroit News. When legendary General Motors chairman Alfred Sloan took control of the car giant in in the early 1920s, he […]
Surprisingly, it’s a virtually untold story until now: a made-in-Detroit saga, little known because family-owned R.L. Polk & Co. never sold public stock, never published quarterly sales and profits. But it was a true American trailblazer in establishing information itself as a highly valuable product. It’s a story of innovation, entrepreneurship and reinvention; a nation […]
A man named Ralph Lane Polk was the leader at R. L. Polk & Co. for 115 years, through four generations. RLP I, the Civil War veteran with the Federal Army, started the company in 1870 in Detroit, MI and built it into the largest printer of business and community directories in the United States. […]
When young Ralph Lane Polk hopped a train in 1870 and went from town to town selling directories, little did he know that he was planting seeds for not only his company but also several industries.
This story originally appeared in DBusiness. No company, no family has done more to track the trajectory of America and its people than R.L. Polk and Co. From the aftermath of the Civil War to the 21st century, from railroads to the automobile, and from computers to cyberspace, R.L. Polk has chronicled the movement of […]
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.
In the early 1920s, both Ford Motor Company and General Motors were steadily growing as cars begin to fill American cities. The two companies set the stage for a burgeoning auto culture with millions of cars sold in the 1920s. However, GM’s Alfred Sloan did not trust the annual sales numbers that other auto manufacturers […]
Well before Google and Facebook dominated the flow of information, R.L. Polk & Co. brought information to the masses. Beginning in 1870, the family-owned business started gathering data and information and provided it for consumption. And while the family focused on democratizing information, their immense contributions to American society went unnoticed. Until now. The upcoming […]