Directories have been central to communication in Melbourne since the first directory was privately published in 1841. With the expansion and increasing sophistication of the metropolis, they too have become larger, more elaborate and specialised. Broadly, directories have evolved from simple alphabetical listings of names and businesses, to comprehensive lists of addresses by streets within suburbs accompanied by alphabetical name and trade indexes, and finally, in the age of the telephone and computer, to extensive alphabetical and commercial-business guides and detailed street maps. The expansion and increasing inter-connectedness of the metropolis and the development of mechanised transport made the elaboration of directories essential to social and commercial life in the city. Aside from the immediate practical purposes they are designed to serve, directories have been increasingly appreciated as vital tools for historical research, especially among genealogists.
Port Phillip District householders were first listed in the censuses of 1836 and 1838, and in the 1839 post office directory, all issued in Sydney. These aside, the first list of some 900 Melbourne individual and business names was contained in Kerr's Melbourne Almanac, and Port Phillip Directory, for 1841, compiled by William Kerr (1812-59), then editor of the morning newspaper The Port Phillip Gazette and Melbourne Advertiser. (This directory was reprinted in facsimile in 1978.) A second edition in 1842 contained 1944 names. Two short directories were issued by the Separation Association in 1845 and 1846, under the title Port Phillip Separation Merchants' and Settlers' Almanac, Diary and Melbourne Directory/Directory for Melbourne. Two years later The Port Phillip Almanac and Directory, for 1847, compiled by J.J. Mouritz, was issued by the Port Phillip Patriot (reissued in facsimile, 1979) and also by the Port Phillip Herald. Mouritz' Directory For the Town, and District of Port Phillip contains upward of 4500 names. Although Mouritz left register books at various business places for readers to supply additional names and corrections for future editions, no more seem to have appeared.
Melbourne in the gold rushes saw an explosion of directory publishing: the Victorian Directory (1851), the New Quarterly Melbourne Directory (1853); The Melbourne Commercial Directory compiled by P.W. Pierce (1853); several Melbourne commercial directories between 1853 and 1856; and (John) Tanner's Melbourne Directory for 1859. Copies of these are now quite rare, for all were short-lived compared with the series of annual commercial and general directories of Melbourne and suburbs inaugurated by John Sands of Sydney in 1857. These appeared first as Sands & Kenny's directory (1857-59), then as Sands, Kenny & Co.'s directory (1860-61) and finally as the long-enduring Sands & McDougall's directory. Dugald McDougall (1834-85) joined Sands & Kenny as Melbourne manager in 1860, became Sands' partner on Kenny's retirement in 1862, and after Sands' death in 1873 continued the Melbourne operations as Sands & McDougall, a company noted as stationers, booksellers and printers, and especially for their annual directory. This was published from 1863 as Sands & McDougall's Melbourne and Suburban Directory and from 1902 as Sands & McDougall's Melbourne, Suburban and Country Directory, also incorporating Canberra 1940-47, and retitled Directory of Victoria from 1948. Ceasing with the 1974 volume in the 'One hundred and seventeenth year of publication', the directory had appeared annually since 1857 with the exception only of the single volume for the war years 1944-45.
Sands & McDougall appears to have employed door-to-door canvassers to check residents and businesses, blanks and vacancies in listings suggesting that visitors did not rely on hearsay but checked their information carefully. While researchers will find gaps and conflicts in the information, judicious and persistent cross-referencing of the street, alphabetical and trade sections usually produces dividends. There is simply nothing to match these directories for their reliability, comprehensive coverage, and continuity of publication. Though the Sands & McDougall directories may be supplemented by official Victorian post office directories, published between 1868 and 1885 by F.F. Bailliere, and between 1891 and 1892 and 1916, first by Wise, Caffin & Co. and later by H. Wise & Co., and which include Melbourne and suburbs, these are not annual publications, and the occupational and trade information is sparse. There are also various business directories, which proliferated after 1945.
Melbourne's directories have become of inestimable value to social scientists and historians, especially given the destruction of Victorian manuscript schedules, the absence of 19th-century voters' rolls, and the difficulty of using municipal valuation books, rate books and voter lists. Prest's Social Survey of Melbourne employed Sands & MacDougall's 1942 directory to draw a sample of households for investigation. While American urban historians and sociologists had long employed their (superior) city directories, the first sophisticated historical use of Australian directories appears to have been by Graeme Davison in his research for The rise and fall of Marvellous Melbourne (1978). Certainly historians owe a great debt to the myriad anonymous canvassers upon which the Sands & McDougall directory enterprise depended.
By the 1970s street and trade directories in the style of Sands & McDougall were being challenged by other urban information systems and sources. Printed directories were expensive to compile, and by reason of their size expensive to print and distribute and awkward to shelve and use. The first Sands directory of Melbourne (1857) was an octavo book of 266 pages, the last (1974) a tome of 1378 pages. By the 1970s general urban directories (as distinct from specialised trade and professional directories, which are not considered here) were being replaced by telephone books, distributed free to subscribers, but whose cost of production was covered by subscriber connection and call fees, and by special payments for commercial listings in special sections or supplementary volumes.
Telephone directories were issued by the Victorian post office, the first (and Australia's first) being published in Melbourne in 1880 and listing 44 names. By the time the last Sands & McDougall directory for Melbourne and suburbs was issued in 1974, almost every home had a telephone, or ready access to one and its telephone book. By then, too, private telephone numbers had overwhelmed commercial and professional numbers so that from 1959 they were contained in a pink classified section. The 'Pink Pages' eventually became a volume issued separately from the White Pages, and about 1975 the Pink Pages became the Yellow Pages ('Let your fingers do the walking'). Within the Yellow Pages locality guides to services assisted users to find nearby traders and professionals, and during the 1990s, as well as city-wide directories, the White and Yellow Pages were issued for regions of the metropolis. The separation in the White Pages of government and statutory authority numbers from private numbers, and their arrangement and rearrangement, initially caused much annoyance to users. But telephone directories are now as vital to city living as once were Melbourne's name, address and street directories. Users of the White and Yellow Pages are also increasingly accessing their electronic counterparts. It had taken almost a century for the telephone book to render the Sands & McDougall directory obsolete, but by then the book of street maps had become an essential adjunct of the telephone directory.
Melbourne's first street directories with maps began as pocket book guides organised suburb by suburb whose simple maps were accompanied by descriptive lists of streets. Moulton's Directory of Streets for Melbourne and Suburbs, which appeared from 1911 to 1912, was taken over by the advertising agent Val Morgan in 1916 as Morgan's (late Moulton's) and published simply as Morgan's Street Directory from 1918. In time the style changed to alphabetical lists of streets grid-referenced to a consolidated map section. By the time the revised 52nd edition was issued in 1984, available in both large and glove box editions, Morgan's Official Street Directory Melbourne and Suburbs had three competitors. Universal Business Directories (UBD) published their first Universal Street Directory in 1955. The UBD Directory (into its 40th edition in 2005: 'Where would you be without your UBD?') was for a period (1987-92) issued as the UBD Broadbent's Street Directory Melbourne, before settling on the title UBD Melbourne Street Directory. From 1966 there was also Gregory's Street Directory of Melbourne and Suburbs, and the Melway Street Directory of Greater Melbourne. Gregory's ('We've got Australia covered'), which was published until the early 1980s, and again in compact form during the early 1990s, became part of Universal Press, publisher of UBD Directories. Melway's, published by Melway Publishing Co., has been strikingly successful in encouraging businesses to cite a Melway reference as part of their advertising.
Street directories with their accompanying road maps, appearing and expanding with the universal extension of private motoring, have become more and more elaborate since the simple black on white pocket-sized books of the 1910s and 1920s: consider the use of colour, the inclusion of functional as well as alphabetical indexes, and the issue of large print versions. Looked on historically, map-style street directories offer the historian a fascinating view, not only of the expanding suburban metropolis, but also of changing urban transport and of the proliferation of urban facilities and amenities. Street directories make possible sophisticated mapping of urban development, especially when employed in conjunction with the electronic systems now marketed by their publishing companies.
The La Trobe Library's Chronological Guide to Victorian Directories, Electoral Rolls, Professional Lists, Etc, 1836-1900 (mimeo, 1967) was superseded by Margot Hyslop's Victorian Directories, 1836-1974 (1980) which is still indispensable, though it does not list telephone, street or modern business directories.