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United States: City and Telephone Directories

U.S. City Directories

Map of San Francisco, Banker's City Directory. Between 1852 and 1853. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

City directories are among the most important sources of information about urban areas and their inhabitants. They provide personal and professional information about a city's residents as well as information about its business, civic, social, religious, charitable, and literary institutions. City directories often provide additional information about individuals such as place of employment and name of spouse. The entries are arranged alphabetically by last name and also by address and telephone number. City directories are compiled through door-to-door surveys and are published at irregular intervals.

The Library of Congress has an unmatched collection of United States city directories. They are available in a variety of formats: paper, microfiche, microfilm, and electronic.

  • City Directories of the United States is a large, self-service collection of city directories on microfilm. More than 1200 cities, towns, and counties are represented; the years of coverage are primarily 1861 through 1960. The directories are arranged by city (not by state) in large cabinets in the Microform and Electronic Resources Center. Paper copies of the guide to city directories can be found in the Microform and Electronic Resources Center and at the Local History and Genealogy Reference Desk in the Main Reading Room. Directories for many localities include listings for other nearby communities. When ranges of years are indicated, there may be gaps of as many as five years.
  • Numbered miscellaneous reels are shelved at the end of the alphabetical collection. Furthermore, there are additional directories for New Jersey towns, labeled Supplemental New Jersey Directories. These directories have been microfilmed by several historical societies in New Jersey. They are not self service, but can be requested in the Microform and Electronic Resources Center.
  • A separate microfilm collection of U.S. business directories, published from 1902 to 1935 is shelved following the miscellaneous reels in drawers labeled Business Group. The business directories are listed on their own page in this guide and are therefore not included on the separate state pages.
  • A separate microfiche collection of pre-1861 U.S. directories is also available on a self-service basis in the Microform and Electronic Resources Center. Dorothea Spear's American Directories Before 1860 is a guide to this collection.

The directories listed in this guide are available in the self-service microfilm collection. None of these directories is available on interlibrary loan; nor can the staff of the Library of Congress search these directories for names of individuals or organizations. If you would like to hire a researcher to examine the directories for you, view this list of links to free-lance researchers in the greater Washington D.C. area who perform research for a fee.

Current City Directories

The latest editions of city directories are located on Deck 46 which is entered through Alcove 4 in the Main Reading Room. They are arranged alphabetically by state, shelved after the telephone directories and before the reverse telephone directories for that state.

Since many of these directories contain listings for more than one community, you should examine the card catalog, which is located near the directory collection on Deck 46, to determine which city directory contains the listings for a particular community. The labels on the catalog drawers are color coded for easy identification: pink is for the city directory catalog.

Researchers should be aware, however, that there are no current city directories for many major U.S. cities - among them Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Therefore, some editions shelved on Deck 46 may be many years out-of-date.

Requesting a Large Number of Directories

This guidance is for those interested in requesting a large number of print directories housed in the John Adams Building including Street Address, Criss-Cross, Telephone Books, and City Business Directories. These directories are not in the catalog, so there are separate steps for requesting these items. Please read these policies carefully before making a request:

  • Directories are served in the Science & Business Reading Room on the 5th floor of the John Adams Building. 
  • Directory requests need to be submitted in person via paper slip at the book services desk in the Science & Business Reading Room.
  • There is a maximum of 40 directories per person per day. Requests that contain more than 40 directories will be truncated at 40 items. 
  • We strongly encourage submitting bulk directory requests at least 24 hours in advance in person. Same day requests can take up to 2 hours.
  • Directory requests need to include (a) type of directory: Street Address, Criss-Cross, Telephone Book, or City Business), (b) location, including state, and (c) specific years. Library staff will only pull the volumes that are specifically requested.
  • Once you’ve arrived, check in at the book service desk so staff can deliver your cart of directories.
  • No carts are kept in the reading room overnight; let staff know if you plan to continue to use the directories at a future appointment.

Effective April 4, 2022