Friday Finds: Reading the Phone Book

Friday, February 22, 2013
San Francisco and Oakland Chinese Telephone Directory, 1938, Box 370, Pardee Low
Stasi telephone directory, 1988, Box 1, Jürgen Perduss Collection.

This week marks the 135th anniversary of the telephone book. What began as a single page in 1878 has turned into a semi-annual publishing frenzy -- more than 500 million telephone books and directories are published in the U.S. every year.

The Hoover Institution Archives does not actively collect phone books, of course, but a few unique copies have found their way onto our shelves, such as the Los Alamos laboratory telephone book and the East German Stasi’s internal directory, complete with the office dentist’s number. From William Casey’s White House directory to Chinese phone books printed in 1930s San Francisco, the Archives features a rich collection of personnel lists and rosters from various organizations and communities. And besides, what archivist doesn’t love an alphabetized list?