City Directories of the United States, a microform collection published by Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group, represents one of the most comprehensive sources of information about U.S. city dwellers available to researchers today. The collection provides historical, personal, and professional information about the inhabitants of a city and information about the city’s civic, social, benevolent, and literary organizations. The Library of Congress is the primary source for city directories published in the collection. For volumes that are not available from the Library of Congress, attempts are made to borrow them from local libraries and historical societies.
The City Directories of the United States collection currently consists of five segments. Segment I includes directories published before 1860 and consists of 6,303 microfiche. Segment II includes directories published from 1861 through 1881 and consists of 372 reels. In addition, three supplements to Segment II were published: one unit of 24 reels, one unit of 25 reels, and one unit of 31 reels. Segment III contains directories from 1882 through 1901 and is available on 749 reels. Supplements to Segment III are currently being published in units of 25 reels each as directories previously unavailable are located. Segment IV, including directories published from 1902 through 1935, and Segment V, including directories from 1936 through 1960, are currently in progress. Each unit of Segments IV and V contains several different metropolitan areas and is comprised of 50 reels.
The collection is published on silver halide microfilm and meets all standards for archival permanence. The polarity is positive and the reduction ratio varies between 10x and 15x for 35mm, 24x for microfiche.
The reel numbering system has recently been revised to provide greater access to the directories. The reel numbers are comprised of four elements: the supplement, the segment or year span, the unit number, and the reel number within the unit. For example, 1301801 indicates supplement 1, segment 3, unit 18, reel 1. Though efforts have been made to provide complete runs for cities within a segment, some years were unavailable at the time of filming. If they become available, they will be included on a separate reel and published in future units.