Research Resources: New York City

Going back all the way to Peregrine Williamson, it seems that New York City was the place to be if you were going to make, and especially, sell, steel pens.

New York City has long been our commercial hub with thousands of offices and firms even in the early 19th-century. The population tended to be very large, and mostly literate. The need for stationery and pens was not only highest there, but it was also a major distribution for the rest of the country.

As a result of these and other factors, New York City is important in the history of steel pens in the US, and so you need tools for doing research in New York City.

City Directories

One of the first places to look when trying to find someone or some company, is to look in the directories. There are a few city directories to be found in ancestry.com, but the best sources is the New York Public Library collection of directories. Actually, the New York Public Library’s digital collection is an amazing resource in many way. Search it and you never know what you’re going to find. For a full list of the New York Directories I have found, please seen the table below.

Other Sources

If you’re able to go in person, the New York Historical Society is a fantastic resource. There are some online objects, but most of their great collection is best found in person. Their researchers have also been extraordinarily kind and helpful in finding some things I couldn’t find anywhere else.

A lot of the steel pen manufacturers and the stationers who sold their pens were located in NYC. While a lot of old NYC has been demolished to make way for skyscrapers, it’s amazing how much is still there. Whenever I get an address, I like to use the amazing resource of Google Street View to check it out. Often it’s pretty obvious that the 30-story glass and steel structure on the site is not the building where Benjamin Lawrence and his brother Phineas had their stationery shop in 1859. But if you do see an old building, it would be nice to see just how old it is. If you’re an architectural historian, maybe you can tell by site the rough date. If not, you can go to the amazing hidden resource of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Society. On the page, scroll down just a bit and look for the Landmark Search field. Enter your address and it will take you to a map view with the information panel on the right. Here’s what it says about 73 Bleecker St.

NYCLandmarksInfo

It’s amazing what information is available, but the key for this kind of historical research is the Year Built date. If it’s of the right date, and a landmark, you might be able to get a full landmark report on the building. To do this, go back to the main web page and click on the Discover NYC Landmarks map.  Navigate to the location and click on the yellow or pink area and a pop up window with a quick summary of the historic landmark will appear. Click on the picture and it will pop up the full pdf of the historic landmark designation report. Here’s an example from the NoHo district which includes 73 Bleecker St.

The City Museum of New York City also has some interesting objects, especially photographs from the late-19th into the early-20th centuries, ephemera, etc… Go to their Collections portal to see more.

I’ll add others as they come along, but these will keep you busy for quite a while.

In addition to newspapers.com, which I’ve already spoken of, there is also the New York Historic Newspapers. A joint project of libraries, it provides free, searchable historic newspapers from all over NY state.

List of City Directories for New York and Environs

List of City Directories: I try and put the directory into the year in which the information was collected, so I’ll put the directory for 1900, in the 1899 year, because the info was current as of 1899, while it was published in 1900.

NYPL = New York Public Library Collection

Brooklyn = Brooklyn Public Library’s Collection of Brooklyn Directories

PDF = link to the latinamericanstudies.org site which takes you directly to the pdf of the directory. No fancy interface, but you can easily download or skim through within the browser

Google = Either Longworth for the early years, or one of the others, like Trow, for the later years.

Year Source
1786/87  NYPL
1787/88
1788/89
1789/90
1790/91
1791/92 NYPL
1792/93 NYPL
1793/94 NYPL
1794/95
1795/96 NYPL
1796/97
1797/98 NYPL  – Internet Archive
1798/99 NYPL
1799/00 NYPL
1800/01 NYPL
1801/02
1802
1803
1804
1805
1806
1807
1808
1809
1810
1811/12  Internet Archive
1812
1813/1814 Google
1814
1815
1816
1817
1818
1819
1820
1821 Google
1822/23  Google – Brooklyn
1823/24
1824/25
1825/26  Internet Archive
1826/27  Google
1827/28
1828/29   Google
1829/30
1830/31
1831/32 Google
1832/33
1833/34 Google – Brooklyn: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
1834/35 Google
1835/36 Google
1836/37 Google
1837/38
1838/39  Google – Internet Archives
1839/40 Brooklyn
1840/41 Google
1841/42 Google
1842
1843
1844/45  Google (supplement after great fire)
1845/46  Internet Archives
1846/47  Internet Archives
1847/48  Internet Archives
1848/49 Internet Archives – PDF Doggett
1849/50  NYPL
1850/51  NYPL
1851/52  NYPL
1852/53
1853/54  NYPL
1854/55  NYPL
1855/56  NYPL – Brooklyn
1856/57  NYPL – PDF Trow – Brooklyn
1857/58  Brooklyn
1858/59  NYPL – PDF Trow
1859/60  NYPL – PDF Trow
1860/61  NYPLPDF Trow
1861/62  NYPL – Brooklyn – NYC Trade Directory
1862/63  NYPL – Brooklyn
1863/64  NYPL – Brooklyn
1864/65  NYPL – Google PDF Wilson’s Copartnership – Brooklyn
1865/66  NYPL – PDF Trow – Brooklyn
1866/67  NYPL – Brooklyn
1867/68  NYPL – Brooklyn
1868/69  NYPL – Brooklyn
1869/70  NYPL
1870/71  NYPL – Brooklyn – Morrisania & Treemont (Bronx)
1871/72  Google
1872/73  NYPL
1873/74  NYPL
1874/75  NYPL – Brooklyn
1875/76  Brooklyn
1876/77
1877/78 PDF Gouldings Biz Dir – Brooklyn
1878/79  NYPL – Brooklyn
1879/80  NYPL – Brooklyn
1880/81  NYPL – Brooklyn
1881/82  NYPL – Business Directory
1882/83  NYPL – Brooklyn – PDF Appleton’s Dictionary of New York
1883/84  NYPL – Brooklyn
1884/85  NYPL – Ladies’ Guide – Brooklyn
1885/86  NYPL – Brooklyn – Flushing
1886/87  NYPL – Brooklyn
1887/88  NYPL
1888/89  NYPL – NY NJ Telephone Directory – Brooklyn
1889/90  NYPL – Copartnership and Corp Dir.
1890/91  NYPL
1891/92  NYPL
1892/93  NYPL
1893/94  NYPL
1894/95  NYPL
1895/96  NYPL
1896/97  NYPL – Brooklyn
1897/98  NYPL
1898/99  Brooklyn
1899/00  NYPL
1900/01  NYPL
1901/02  NYPL – Brooklyn – Manhattan Red Guide
1902/03  NYPL – Brooklyn
1903/04  NYPL – Brooklyn
1904/05
1905/06  NYPL – Brooklyn
1906/07  NYPL – Brooklyn
1907/08  NYPL – Brooklyn
1908/09  NYPL
1909/10  NYPL – Telephone Directory
1910/11  NYPL – (Feb) Telephone Directory – (May) Telephone Directory(Oct) Telephone Directory

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