This article applies current research in the history of internal communication in business to archival appraisal of business documents. It examines the communication systems typical of three American business structures: (1) the traditional, owner-managed small firm that was the major form of American business before 1880 and still exists today; (2) the larger, functionally departmentalized firm that first developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century; and (3) the multidivisional firm, with autonomous divisions based on products or geographical regions, that first developed in the 1920s. The author discusses the implication of this view of business documents for appraisal of business collections, describes problems with some common approaches to appraisal, and suggests alternative approaches.

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