A growing body of research in economics and in business and economic history has shown the key role of bankruptcy and insolvency law on business organization, firms’ governance, and entrepreneurial choices. Most research, however, has focused on the formal aspects of laws, and still little is known on how various systems worked in practices. This paper fills this gap in the literature analyzing the functioning of bankruptcy procedures in four main European economies (Italy, France, England, and Germany) between ca.1880 and 1914. Using an original data set and descriptive statistics on length, organization, and return of procedures, the paper shows how the aim of attracting debtors was more successful in the less regulated English system, but how the protection of creditors’ rights was more efficiently pursued in France and Germany. Italy appears as the absolute worst performer.