NAMES - How They Are Taken for Brooklyn Directories

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 8 May 1885 One Hundred and Thirty Men at Work. An Interview with One of Them. There is one maker of books in this city whose volumes are always in demand and who enjoys a degree of popularity as an author that may well make him the envy of his less fortunate literary friends. Although his volumes are large and ponderous they are never considered dull, and are so much sought after that there is hardly a man or woman in Brooklyn, who does not consult them in the course of the year. We refer of course to Mr. LAIN, the publisher of the Brooklyn directories. During the past week the work of taking names for the directory has been going on all over the city and probably two-thirds of them have already been taken. But the preparatory proceedings, the organization of the force by which this work was to be done, was all accomplished the week previous. Many of the readers of the EAGLE must have noticed the advertisements for men to take names for the directory, all answers to be in writing, no notice being taken of personal applications. This of course was to require good penmanship on the part of those selected for the work, that being the first and most important requisite. A man who cannot write names plainly is of no use for the directory. Out of the numerous applicants about two hundred were selected for further test, and for three days a sort of civil service examination was held by Mr. LAIN at his office. There were morning and afternoon sessions for this purpose, and separate batches of candidates for the comparatively small remuneration offered might be taken as proof of the hardness of the times and the number of intelligent men who are unemployed. Some, of course were old hands at the business, but the great majority were trying their skill in that way for the first time. Nearly all had seen better days and some had once been well off. The points upon which they were particularly examined were their handwriting and their ability to comprehend the instructions given them as to taking the names. These instructions ware very full and cover all the ground necessary for the perfect doing of the work. When all this was over one hundred and their were selected for the whole as having satisfactorily passed the required tests, and the remainder dismissed. Each of the chosen men then lost his individuality for the time being and became a number and was assigned a street or part of a street, if very long. Then, book in hand and pen and ink bottle in pocket each man started for a preliminary afternoon's work. This was started on Saturday, but on Monday the real work commenced. The directories for which the single taking of names serves are three in number-general, business and elite. The book which the name taker carries contains fifty loose sheets, each sheet being divided into five equal spaces by red lines and each space or slip, for they afterward become slips, having two lines for writing. The names are taken precisely as they afterward stand in the directory, if the man is in a business, both his business address and residence being given, and where there is a firm the general business address of the firm and residence of each member of itbeing detailed. When the books are handed to the office, which is done every day at its close, the sheets are taken and placed in a cutting machine and cut into strips. These strips are then inserted alphabetically, and when all the names are in pasted on sheets, thus forming the copy or manuscript of the directory. It is estimated by Mr. LAIN that there will be about 120,000 names in the general directory this year. A man working from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., should get from 200 to 300 names, according to the locality he works in so that 130 men can take many more than 120,000 names in a week, but then it must be remembered that the names of the people both doing business and reading in Brooklyn are all duplicated and have to be afterward corrected. One of the name takers who has been working in a street which begins in every poor neighborhood and runs into a wealthy quarter was interviewed in regard to his experience: "It is great fun,"said he, "I have seen the week every phase of life; I have not come across a corpse yet, but I have been very near it, and have seen a woman on her death bed. I have been among all the nationalities, Italians, French, Germans, Swedes and Irish, more of the latter, by the way, than of any other. I go into tenement house and knock boldly a the first door I see. The door opens, and when they see me with a book in my hand, they generally take me for an insurance man and tell me that they are all insured already. But when I explain my business, which I sometimes have to do with my foot against it to prevent it from being shut in my face they relax. Most of them take it as a compliment to have their names in the directory. 'It's a great thing,' said one old lady, ' we did not have any directory in Ireland, but when I came out here I found my brother Timothy by it.' Some think I am the census man and ask if I want too know the names and ages of their children." "Don't you find some who are unwilling to give their name?" "Yes, but not among the working people. Sometimes I come across a family hidden away, as it were, in a tenement house, some bookkeeper or clerk in reduced circumstances, whose wife refuses to give his name; but I generally get it from the neighbors. Then there are some well to do families who do not want their head's names in the directory for fear he may be called upon to do jury duty. Where a man cannot be got at the time an expert is sent round afterward to obtain it, and he is bound to get it one way or another. Some men, on the other hand, are so considerate and careful that they leave a slip with their, and all necessary particulars to be handed to the directory man." "Have you much trouble with foreigners?" "No, except from their imperfect knowledge of English. They are, however all anxious to give information, and although some of the women hardly speak English at all, I generally manage to get them all right. Very few of the women know how their husbands' names are spelled, there are so many ways of spelling different names; but they nearly all have insurance of some kind or another, and I get the correct spelling from them. Some of my conversations with the old Irish women are very amusing; they on a long narrative about their family history, and of course I have to listen to them. For instance, here is a specimen; " 'O, yes; Patrick, God rest his soul, has been dead this fifteen year, and I sprained my wrist yesterday; do you think it is broke, now?' "So they go on; but they are good, kind, obliging people and you can't help liking them." Mr. LAIN states that the directory will be out early in June.
Transcribed by Pam Jeter 
Back DIRECTORY Main Index