The Boston Directory appeared in 1789 and was published irregularly until 1825, when annual publication started. Various publishers were involved over the many decades of its existence: John Norman (1789); John West (1796-1803); Edward Cotton (1805-1818); Charles Stimpson (1820-1846); George Adams (1846-1857); Adams, Sampson & Co. (1858-1865); Sampson, Davenport & Co. (1865-1884); Sampson, Murdock & Co. (1885-1903); Sampson & Murdock Co. (1904-1930); R.L. Polk & Co. (1944-1981).
The title page in 1789 promises "A List of the Merchants, Mechanics, Traders, and others of the Town of Boston; in Order to enable Strangers to find the Residence of any Person." The 1789 Directory also includes a map of Boston, lists of public offices, lawyers, medical professionals, bankers, and lists of the names and homes of engine-men (firefighters). Over the years, the format evolved into a familiar one with public offices listed in front, residents in the middle, and businesses at the end. Advertisements appeared in 1820, were expanded after 1846, and helped defray the costs of printing volumes. By 1858, the price of $1.50 was listed and compared with higher rates in other cities: $3.00 in New Orleans; $2.00 in Baltimore; and $4.50 in New York. By 1902, The Boston Directory cost $6.
Head of Reader Services
A generous donation from Scott Guthery, an Athenæum proprietor and docent, will enable the Athenæum to digitize this collection and make it available online.
Links to catalog records: