February 15, 2016

City Business Directories

  , New York, Brooklyn, Boston, and Philadelphia. 

        New York used to be the center of US fountain pen manufacturing between 1850 and 1950, and a lot of the history of the N. Y. pen companies is preserved in the N. Y. business directories.  Here’s a short list of online resources for these directories in a few cities.
        The website titled
“New York City Online Historical Directories” has a comprehensive list of links, but many of them are not free.  Fortunately, some are backed up with free links.  But watch out.  There are lots of stumbling blocks.  Beware of all the Williams volumes from 1830 to 1835 because there are no lists of names and occupations.  Also remember that the volumes on Ancestry are not word-searchable.  What you find is all a matter of what words you choose for your search.  Always search for the singular and plural of a word.  Look for the words “pen”, “pens”, “quill”, “quills”, “pencil”, and “pencils”, and also the words “gold” and “silver”.  But the worst thing of all is, as usual, all the gaps in the record.  I hate gaps!
        Here’s a
“History of City Directories in the United States and New York City”.
        Here’s a guide to the digitized
“New York City Directories” at the New York Public Library.
        Family Search’s
“New York Directories” lists various commercial online resources.
        Here are the links to the
“Brooklyn City Directories” as PDF’s at the Brooklyn Public Library.
        Here are the three sets of  links for the
“Boston City Directories” on the Hathi Trust.  When you open up each volume in all the links, you’ll find that they are text-only, so you will have to add the suffix ;view=1up;seq=1 to the ends of all the URLs to get the full imagery versions.’s “New York Directories” has volumes between 1786 and 1922.’s
“Brooklyn Directories” has volumes between 1862 and 1913.’s
“Philadelphia Directories” has volumes between 1785 and 1922.’s
“Boston Directories” has volumes between 1789 and 1926.
        Here’s the first Philadelphia city directory, the
1785.  And here’s the first New York directory, the 1786 as republished by Doggett in 1851.  It was also republished by Patterson in 1874, copies in Hathi and Google Books, but they don’t have the “Annals of New York City” section with the reference to Thomas Allen, a stationer and book binder who was also a seller of imported quills.  Somehow, he was left out of the name list in the directory, as well.
        These are the links for
“Trow’s New York City Directories” from 1853 to 1877, but they are text-only, so you have to add ;view=1up;seq=1 to the ends of the URLs to get full imagery.
        Here are some stray volumes of
“The Trow City Directory” from 1864 to 1890.
        Here are the
“Doggett’s New York City Directory” volumes from 1843 to 1852.
        And here are the
“Longworth’s New York Directory” volumes from 1801 to 1843.
        I will place my own distilled, chronologically-arranged lists of links of free, online, searchable N. Y., Boston, and Philly volumes here, eventually, once I finish them off, so keep checking back.

George Kovalenko.

Philadelphia city directories

New York city directories

Boston city directories

Brooklyn city directories