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Sweet's Catalog File: A Resource Tool for Architects, Engineers, and Builders

Using the Sweet's Architectural Trade Catalogs, researchers can identify trends in design or engineering, trace economic changes in a major industry, and follow technological innovations. This guide serves as a master index to those publications.

Introduction

Warren K. Leffler, photographer. Woman and man standing next to a car, looking at a house under construction in Arlington, Virginia. 1906. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Introduced in 1906 to save architects from being swamped with trade catalogs from building suppliers, the Sweet’s Architectural Trade Catalogs were an immediate success. Whether for architecture or engineering, Sweet’s Catalogs today recreate the elegant and commonplace of a vanished world. With long runs of volumes researchers can identify trends in design or engineering, trace economic changes in a major industry, and follow technological innovations. Restoration architects and business and social historians will find in Sweet’s a gold mine of information. The photographs and drawings clearly demonstrate the range of design choices available during much of the twentieth century. The print volumes in the collections of the Library of Congress go back to 1915.

The Sweet’s Catalog File is a building product source and a frequently used title at the Library of Congress. It is an example of a master catalog (i.e., catalogs or partial catalogs from several manufacturers, with a combined index) in the same class as Electronic Engineers Master Catalog, IC Master, Food Engineering Master, and Thomas Register of American Manufacturers.

Extent of the File

To get a sense of how extensive this title is, here are the four basic areas of the stacks of the general collections with the approximate number of shelves:

TA215.S 33 shelves
TH455.S 99 2⁄3 shelves
TH6010.S 1⁄3 shelf
TK455.S 1 1⁄3 shelves
TOTAL 134 1⁄2 shelves

Keep in mind that each shelf is approximately 30 inches long so that there are 336.25 linear feet or 0.064 miles of Sweet’s Catalogs in the collections of the Library of Congress!

Title Changes

The title has gone through some big changes over time. Earlier series include Sweet’s Catalog Service: Architectural File, Sweet’s Engineering Catalogues, and Sweet’s Catalog File for Builders. There are also numerous instances of title changes and even titles being split into new titles. For example, Sweet’s Engineering Catalogues was published from 1914-1933 but starting with 1934 it split into Sweet’s File: Engineering (TA215.S85), Sweet’s File: Mechanical Industries (TA215.S86), Sweet’s Catalog File: Power Plants (TA215.S87), and Sweet’s File: Process Industries (TA215.S88). Furthermore, titles may be divided into various section numbers and that also changes over time.