The Virginia Historical Society traditionally has pursued an active program for the acquisition of the records of Virginia's business and commercial enterprises as they have become available. Some of those record groups have reached the Society as components of larger collections of personal or family papers; some have been received directly from companies or their agents and represent the selected remnants of historic and operational records of those firms. These materials have ranged in date from the late seventeenth through the late twentieth centuries and have represented a diverse range of business enterprises focusing on a wide variety of related commercial, economic, legal, labor, and industrial issues.
The Society's business collections currently contain a wide selection of business history records, from single-volume account books kept by merchants in the seventeenth century to massive record groups of successful twentieth-century firms or international corporations based in Virginia. From railroad construction and operations, canal building and management, tobacco growing and marketing, and general mercantile operations to paper production, iron manufacture, and investment banking, these records cover a broad spectrum of Virginia's past.
Despite Virginia's origins as a commercial venture, until 2001 there was no central repository to document the state's four-hundred year business history and no organization actively collecting business records. That year, VHS, with generous funding from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation and Alcoa, filled that void with the creation of the Reynolds Business History Center (RBHC).