The following guide notes the years and locations of various directories and supporting reference works. For additional listings of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania directories, as well as those for cities such as Camden, Baltimore, and Boston, search our online catalog for "city directories" and the name of the city you seek.
For a general overview of how to use Philadelphia city directories, see Robert Elwood Hoagland's article, "Research Tips: Using Philadelphia City Directories," from Penn In Hand, vol. IX, no. 4 (Summer 1988). (UPA F 146 .G3)
Philadelphia City Directories
Many Philadelphia city directories are now available online via the Internet Archive. As of this writing, 69 volumes are available between the years 1785 and 1867. Other directories may be available online through other sources. HSP offers visitors to our library free access to AncestryInstitution.com; FamilySearch.org is free for all users. See an HSP Reference Librarian for further assistance using these resources in the library.
HSP has the following print copies of Philadelphia city directories available for reference purposes in the CDIR section of the Pennsylvania room:
HSP's collection includes a variety of telephone directories, including:
Official directory of the Bell Telephone of Philadelphia: July 1883, January 1888, January 1889, July 1890, January 1891, January 1893, January 1894, April 1894, October 1894, 1900, April 1981 (Wa* .02V and UPA/Ph F 158.2.B4 1900)
Microform of telephone directories from 1936-1975 (XR 119:1-74l; drawers 138-139) and 1987-1989 (XMF Wa .022; drawer 343)
HSP's holdings include a variety of resources for learning more about prominent Philadelphians, including:
The city also renumbered almost all city addresses in 1856, to take effect in 1857. Prior to this date, building numbers ran consecutively with no changes for new blocks. For instance, 146 Chestnut Street was located between 6th and 7th streets. Beginning in 1857, the city renumbered with the same block numbering structure we use today: the 100 block of Chestnut Street is located between Front and 2nd streets, etc.
Philadelphia officials also enacted major renumbering efforts in Kensington and Germantown in the late 19th century. For more on Germantown, see Laura A. Taylor's "An Introduction to Germantown Street Names;" Parts 1 & 2;Germantown Crier; Vol. 26, no. 4 (Fall 1974): 113-20; and Vol. 27, no. 1 (Winter 1975): 19-27. (UPA/Ph F 159 .G3 T3 1975)