Business & Finance: Little FBI

One hundred years ago, one of the first credit correspondents in the U.S. reported to the Mercantile Agency that Peddler James Sampson "drinks two glasses of cider brandy [applejack], plain, every morning and evening¬ónever more; has lost a large double tooth on lower jaw, back, second from throat on left side; has a scar an inch long on his left leg kneepan; cause: cut himself with a hatchet when only three years old." Credit sleuths have been weighing financial responsibility with the most intimate details of a man's personal life ever since.

Last week, with no fanfare at...

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