Here are some datasets I’ve collected for my research projects and to help my students get started on their own theses and final papers.
Sources for Historical Microdata Related to Enterprises or Establishments
Jeremy Atack’s Samples from the United States Censuses of Manufacturing
Carola Frydman and Eric Hilt’s replication dataset from “Investment Banks as Corporate Monitors in the Early Twentieth Century United States.” American Economic Review, 107 (7): 1938-70.
Warren Whatley and Gavin Wright’s Employee Records of the Ford Motor Company
Caitlin Rosenthal’s Massachusetts Corporations Accounting Data, 1870-1895 and Accountants’ Index Publications
Chris Vickers and Nicholas Ziebarth’s data from the United States Census of Manufactures, 1929-1935
Robert Wright’s US Corporate Development 1790-1860
My own Imperial Russian Factory Database, 1894-1908
Seven Ağır and Cihan Artunç’s Database of Firms in Istanbul, 1926-1950
Yale International Center for Finance data on greenbacks, US securities index 1871-1938, the South Sea Bubble 1720 project, and stocks on the London Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange, and St. Petersburg Stock Exchange.
Historical Data on Enterprises at More Aggregate Levels
Historical Statistics of the United States, esp. Part 2 Chapter V: Business Enterprise
The British Business Census of Entrepreneurs (public files are not firm-level, as far as I can tell, but you can still learn a lot from them at the town or county level)
Réka Juhász’s AER replication dataset, which has information on French factory technology at the Department level
See Richard Hornbeck’s website for a link to county-by-industry data files used in his recent paper with Martin Rotemberg “Railroads, Reallocation, and the Rise of American Manufacturing.”
Collections of Historical Documents for Study Commerce
Other Really Useful Stuff
Michael R. Haines’s Historical, Demographic, Economic, and Social Data: The United States, 1790-2002
IPUMS for census microdata samples describing individuals, households, and more