1864/65: A Directory Divertimento

Today’s post started out as a simple continuation of earlier posts (here, here, here) looking at Mary Clark, her children, her father Peter Turck and her brother James B. Turck, living and working in Milwaukee in the early 1860s. We discussed the years 1861-1863, using as an important source the Milwaukee city directories compiled in those years by A. Bailey and published by Starr & Son. Today we take a detour from our search for Clarks and Turcks in 1860s Milwaukee, to learn a few things about how city directories were made, and about the revised Milwaukee street numbering system of 1865.

1864: Missing directory

It appears that there was no Milwaukee directory published in 1864. Did the previous publisher go out of business? Did the war years cause manpower shortages that made canvassing for information impossible? Do any of our readers know more about this missing 1864 directory? If so, please reply. I’d like to know more.

1865: New publisher, and more

The 1865 edition of the city directory introduced big changes, both for the book and for Milwaukee’s street addresses. The new publisher was Richard Edwards, who was also responsible for similar volumes in other major cities such as St. Louis, Louisville and New Orleans. He announced his new Milwaukee venture—after a dozen pages of advertisements—with this handsome title page:

Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865, title page.
Click to open larger image in new window

A few pages later, there is a second title page that gives information more particular to this 1865 Milwaukee edition. Milwaukee’s Starr & Son remain as printers, and there is a price penciled above the printer’s name: $3.00. Was this directory actually sold for three dollars in 1865? This is not my area of expertise, but that seems pretty expensive for an ephemeral annual directory. Perhaps $3.00 is a later, used-book dealer price?

Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865, second title page.
Click to open larger image in new window

How do you assemble a 19th-century city directory?

After reading our post 1861/1862: Moving Time, reader Laura Rexroth raised some interesting questions about how these city directories were assembled and distributed (click here and scroll down to the discussion in the comments). In this 1865 Milwaukee directory, new publisher Edwards goes out of his way to discuss the methods and difficulties of canvassing and compiling such a volume.

If you’ve ever spent much time with 19th-century writers—fiction or non—you know that it was a long-winded era. Even so, Edwards’s five-page “Introductory” section is a wonder, by turns informative, entertaining, and needlessly verbose. I couldn’t bring myself to transcribe it, but here is the original. Just click each page for a big, easy-to-read image:

Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865, “Introductory,” page “[79].”
Click to open larger image in new window

This first page is well worth reading for the many details it gives describing how such a directory was compiled. Also worth noting is the date of the start of canvassing, “May last,” i.e., May of 1864. (Edwards also mentions the “cheapness” of the book, which makes the penciled in “$3.00” seem even more unlikely as the original price.)

Towards the end of the first “Introductory” page, Edwards begins a full A to Z list of all the pseudonymous complainers, avoiders, cheapskates, grumblers, and general pains-in-the-neck that the publisher dealt with in producing the 1865 directory. The list continues on the next page, describing “Mr. Durdevant” to “Mr. Xavius”:

Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865, “Introductory,” page “80.”
Click to open larger image in new window

“Numbering of the streets and buildings…”

Edwards completes his Dickensian enumeration of Milwaukee malefactors on page 81. This is followed by a very useful bit of information, an explanation of the new Milwaukee city ordinance to “amend and confirm an ordinance to provide for numbering of the streets and building within the City of Milwaukee.” This raises the possibility that some of the street numbers that we have discussed previously may change in 1865, and that homes without numbers will now have them.

Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865, “Introductory,” page “81.”
Click to open larger image in new window

Page “81” concludes with a discussion of the growth of the city’s population, the popularity of certain surnames, and an overview of the features of the 1865 volume, which include a Historical and Commercial Review—a short history of the city—and a complete reprint of the first Milwaukee directory, Julius P. Bolivar MacCabe’s Directory of the City of Milwaukee for the years 1847–’48.

MacCabe, Julius P. Bolivar, Directory of the City of Milwaukee for the years 1847–’48, reprinted in Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865.
Click to open larger image in new window.

And in conclusion…

The final page of the publisher’s “Introductory” is mostly filled with what we might call “brand-building” puffery and self-congratulation, concluding with a list of thanks to various important Milwaukee businessmen and government officials:

Edwards’ Annual Director […] in the City of Milwaukee for 1865, “Introductory,” page “82.”
Click to open larger image in new window

That said, if you are interested in getting a sense of the quantity and variety of businesses and trades in 1865 Milwaukee, it is well worth your time to page through the many eye-catching advertisements in the book. And the directory also includes page after page of lists of schools, government offices, transportation facilities, ward boundaries, fraternal organizations, churches, and more. All of which can help provide insights into the lives of Milwaukee citizens and visitors of the period.

Next week, we return to the city directory to see where Mary Clark and her extended family were living and working in 1865 and the years following. Changes are afoot, and not all are for the best.


A note on the page numbers of the 1865 Milwaukee city directory:

Edwards’s “Introductory” section begins on an unnumbered page, followed by pages “80,” “81,” and “82.” You might assume that the page before page “80” would be page “79,” but in fact it is only the 21st or 23rd page in the directory (depending on whether you count the cover and the inside cover).

I have identified the pages by their printed numbers, but be aware that these do not reflect their page number/order in the directory as published online, and it’s also possible that the online edition does not always represent the complete directory as originally published.

3 thoughts on “1864/65: A Directory Divertimento

  1. Excellent post – the Victorians do have a flair for wordiness. You’ve piqued my interest about the ads in the directory. How would I view an entire director online?


    • There are a few pre-1861 Milwaukee city directories available via Internet Archive or FamilySearch. These are not as visually interesting as the ones from the mid-1860s onwards. Those are available at Ancestry.com and Fold3.com, but both are subscription sites. However, many public libraries subscribe to the Library Edition of Ancestry, and it may be possible to use this from home with your local library card or other logon credentials. Check you local library website to see what’s possible.


  2. Pingback: Clarks and Turcks: 1864-1865 | Clark House Historian

Comments are closed.