NEW DATA AT ANCESTRY.COM
BOYD'S CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA DIRECTORY, 1904-05
Source: Boyd's Chester County, Pennsylvania directory, 1904-05:
containing a general directory of the cities of West Chester,
Phoenixville, Coatesville, Downingtown, Oxford, Kennett Square and
Berwyn, and a business directory of the county, to which is added a
list by towns of the business and professional men of the county, a
complete list of farmers and an appendix of useful information.
Philadelphia. C.E. Howe. 1904.
members can search this database at:
RESEARCH PATHS AND BYWAYS
"THE PERILS OF A DIRECTORY MAN," by Patricia Law Hatcher, FASG
As I've commented in the past, we don't think about what lies behind
the records we see often enough. Such is the case with city
Andrew Boyd was a major publisher of directories in the late-
nineteenth century. He published hundreds directories, mostly in
Pennsylvania and upstate New York. (These examples were taken from
Boyd's Daily Journal City Directory of Syracuse, but probably
appeared in many of his publications.)
Boyd seems to have been a bit sensitive about criticism of the
accuracy of his directories. The title page often carried the quote
"He that writes or makes a feast, more certainly invites his judges
than his friends; there's not a guest but that will find something
wanting or ill drest."
In one year, in sort of an editor's note entitled "Preliminary
Egotism," he says "As usual we have given all possible care to the
canvass and compilation of our directory--an imperfect task at best."
Another time he explains that corrections can be submitted to his
office and that a copy of the current directory is available in which
corrections can be written.
The following appeared in the directories of 1874-75, preceded by a
THE PERILS OF A DIRECTORY MAN
Podunk, May, 1874.
Mr. Andrew Boyd:-
Dear Sir:--Your name, at the opening of this letter, is the last one
I shall ever attempt to write in connection with the Directory
business, unless it be my own at the bottom of the page.
In making this announcement I am agitated by conflicting emotions:
sadness at finding myself out of "business," jostles with joy at
getting out of this particular branch. A few weeks since I was
peacefully employed in domestic duties, and watching the uncertain
race between the grass and the potatoes in my garden, and yet I was
not happy! I became possessed of an insane desire to enter your
employ, and speedily rise to the dignity of an accomplished
professional in the art of Directory-making. To-day I am cured;
metaphorically speaking, "I have seen the elephant."
If you blame me for deserting you, let me recount to you my recent
experience. It must stir your heart to its depths, for surely you
must long ago "have been there" yourself. You will remember my
several days schooling at your office in the complicated details of
taking information for the Directory. Previous to that, I had been
haunted by a suspicion that the Directory business would do well
enough to pass away a few weeks time; that it was a very simple
profession, and that what little I didn't already know about it I
should pick up in an hour or two. It sounds paradoxical to say that
with all my vain pretensions I knew very much less after my office
experience with you, than I had supposed I did when I entered upon
it. The sunshine of my self-conceit vanished beneath the clouds of
your sharp examinations of the work of every one of the twenty men
you employed. I recall how almost every one of them had, with me, the
same exalted opinion of his own knowledge of the business, and its
utter insignificance; how, as a consequence, every one of them
persisted in making his own peculiar figures and letters, many of
which I humbly confess to you, might appropriately adorn a tea chest;
how, after your oft-repeated earnest counsel, which we oft mistook
for anger, every mother's son of us could remember anything and
everything but what you had said, could make a letter any way but the
right way, and which I now confess was in every instance your way. I
recall, also, how we often sneered at your persistent firmness in
having things right; your great love and pride in your numerous
books, that they be handsome, complete, satisfactory; be all that you
I know that in all your work you were conscientious to a fault,
careful and particular (too much so, we thought,) in little trifles;
that you spent hours far into the night, revising, overlooking,
comparing, compiling, when you should have been on "downy bed of
ease." I am well aware that the thousands who daily refer to your
numerous Directories little dream of the brain-work, and anxiety, and
debilitating excitement expended in their publication. If you ever
die, (which you may,) I here contribute an epitaph:- "Worn out by
overwork of mind and body, and anxiety regarding the obligations of
But all of this is no balm to my wounded spirit and torn clothing!
Canvassing is what has driven from my heart all ambition to be a
great Directory publisher like you. Yes, sir, it was canvassing, sir,
and nothing else. Can a sensitive man be expected to endure it, when
a woman, after being politely asked for necessary Directory
information, angrily retorts, "No, we can't help beggars; go to the
Poor Master!" Another one answered in astonishment, a request for her
name, "Give you our name? No, sir! We know what you want, you want to
give it to the Tax Collector!" Another time I had a door slammed in
my face, with, "No! we don't want to buy anything to-day!" while a
fourth yelled, "Get out of that, or I'll scall' ye!" Why, Mr. Boyd, I
begin to think it a direct interposition of Providence that I am
To-day I have borne the last feather, and it came very near breaking
my back. I learned when I went to a country school that "the dog is a
noble animal." So he is perhaps; but one of his noblest acts is not
attacking an unprotected Directory canvasser in the rear! That is
what he did to me to-day, and my feelings and my clothing are too
much lacerated to admit of further details, in the absence of which I
send you a sketch of the whole business.
Farewell! I can write no more; I have been put in "my little bed." I
tender you my resignation at once; you are welcome to "my back pay."
Let those who complain of errors in a directory, try canvassing for
it, if only for one day, and they will learn that to err is human,
and how sublime a thing it is to forgive.
C. A. N. VASSER
Copyright 1998-2005, MyFamily.com
, Inc. and its subsidiaries.
Reprinted by permission from "Ancestry Daily News"