Historical City Directories
At some point in the history of nearly every city in the United States, R.L. Polk & Co. printed a City Directory with business and residential addresses as well as employment information for each head of household. Over the years, historians and genealogists have reaped the benefits of this snapshot into the early 20th Century. However, these directories were only printed annually, leaving the information of those who arrived and departed between printings lost to time.
In Spokane, the postal clerks discovered a way to make their jobs easier and also capture the information of people on the move. Each year, a city directory was unbound and interspersed with lined paper and then sewn back up again in sections. This allowed the Post Office to write in the comings and goings of Spokane residents, ensuring that the mail was forwarded to the new location. The information could be as simple as a local address change or a relocation to a different continent.
Through a grant with Washington Digital Heritage, the Spokane Public Library has been able to digitize and make available those directories which survived and had been stored in the Genealogy department of the Downtown Branch. Due to their age and condition, we chose to remove the books from the shelf but had made them available on the Internet Archive for genealogists and historians the world over.