This post was written by Georgette Green, a Business Reference and Research Specialist in the Science, Technology and Business Division.
The Library of Congress recently acquired copies of David Longworth’s The New York Directory and Register for 1798 and 1806. These directories are historical records that provide insight into New Yorkers’ daily lives in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Although the Longworth directories were well-known at the time, few copies of the earlier editions still exist.
While Philadelphia was the largest American city leading up to the Revolutionary War and served as the capital of the United States from 1790 until 1800, New York City had grown to 60,000 people by the end of the 18th century. In the 1806 edition of his directory, Longworth starts by addressing a young Philadelphian on New York City, which was surpassing Philadelphia as America’s true “centre of wealth and population.” David Longworth began publishing his almanacs and directories annually in 1796. The Directory and Register gave patrons the most up-to-date information on duties, commercial concerns, significant institutions, and city residents. In 1817, Longworth turned his publishing business over to his son, Thomas Longworth, who continued publishing into the 1840s.
The 1798 New York Directory and Register includes the plan of the city, a brief history of New York with a “List of Remarkable Events which have taken place from the first discovery of America to the present” and a “Description of the Slips and Wharves Belonging to the City of New York.” In this directory, one will also find a registered list of United States government officials along with their salaries. For example, I discovered that our Commander-in-chief President George Washington’s annual salary for himself and his secretary was $25,000 while Vice President John Adams was paid $5,000, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, $3,500. Aside from hundreds of pages of residential information, including names, addresses and occupations, the directory lists churches, postal, insurance, and transport rates, import duties, and offers information on various public and commercial institutions that served New Yorkers. Among other important notices, there is a detailed description of the U.S. coins to be struck by the newly established Mint of the United States.
In the 1806 American Almanac New York Register and City Directory, one will find listings of New York institutions, commercial concerns, government officials, and fraternal lodges, as well as a street directory, a directory of lawyers, and a directory of physicians. It also has insurance companies, banks, churches, foreign consuls, commercial agents, markets, and hospitals. The New York City directory includes 13,536 New York City residents with their addresses and occupations. It also contains twenty-three illustrated advertisements, including an ad I found interesting for the retail of snuff from Peter Wynkoop, a tobacco and snuff manufacturer.
This acquisition of directories adds to our extensive collection of directories for general historical, genealogical, and business history research. Learn more about using directories for historical business research in our Doing Historical Company Research Guide.
If you have a love for historical directories, you can find these gems in the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room.
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