Ever wonder what was hidden in the Valentine’s archives? As it turns out, just about everything! Make an appointment with the archives to find out information like house histories, glimpses of everyday life in Richmond in times gone by, demographic information, and so much more!
Here in the archives, the city directories are one of the most versatile tools for historical research. Dating from Richmond’s first in 1819 to 2013, the directories can tell you who lived where, the occupation of each resident, the locations and lifespans of businesses, annexation dates, and the racial demographic of a neighborhood. Many of the older editions are searchable by address, making them useful for researchers conducting house histories. You can pinpoint the year your house was built and the likely owner at the time of construction. On the other hand, you can track an ancestor who may have moved around the city. But apart from the raw data, the directories can provide surprising glimpses into everyday life in Old Richmond. At times, especially in the years immediately following the Civil War, the unnamed authors of the directories lapse into the first person in order to give unsolicited opinions. If you’ve ever wondered the salary of the Secretary of the Navy in 1860 or the tax rate on felt hats and mustard, the city directory can tell you. Or take the advertising section, where the ads range from the hilarious to the disturbing, as evidenced below in an 1858 advertisement for a precursor to the airplane neck pillow and an 1860 advertisement for MCV’s services:
To make an appointment to view the directories, just email: firstname.lastname@example.org