A city directory listing residents and businesses became important because Chicago was growing, and Chicagoans needed contacts, goods and services.
In Chicago’s True Founder written by J. R. Hayden and published by Thomas J. V. Owen in Lombard, Illinois in 1834, Hayden listed the 500 Chicagoans of 1833 and the Chicago property owners of 1833. His attempt was the first to prepare a directory of Chicagoans.
In 1835, a metal box was placed at the northeast corner near the courthouse construction site. According to Henry H. Hurlbut, author of Chicago Antiquities (Chicago, 1881), residents living outside Fort Dearborn deposited their addresses and other documents in this box. Unfortunately, it mysteriously disappeared and has never been found.
Another directory was published by Edward H. Rudd in 1839. It was a part of a book titled The Laws and Ordinances of the City of Chicago and was approved by the Common Council. The directory, A Chicago Business Directory, contained 277 entries. Almost half were located on Lake Street.
The 1839 Voter’s List also contained an 1839 Directory of the City. It was included in the Fergus Historical Series published in 1876. Robert Fergus assembled his directory with the assistance of elderly city residents. It included anyone living in the city from 1837-1839.
In 1844, James Wellington Norris, an attorney, canvassed the city for his general directory. He contacted building owners and asked them to send him their addresses. The directory was printed and published by Robert Fergus and William Ellis in 1844. It contains addresses with only street names and reference points. As a result of this directory, the Common Council realized the need for numbered building addresses. By 1848, all the buildings on Chicago streets were numbered.
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