Phone Tapping

By Lisa Louise Cooke Premium

One way to get around unpublished phone numbers is to go through a town’s old telephone books. If someone’s lived in the same town for a while, you might locate a listing prior to his or her unpublished-number status. Here are some resources for tracking down telephone directories:

The Library of Congress: For information on the collection of directories at the Library of Congress, check out Telephone and City Directories in the Library of Congress: Current Directories and Reverse Directories in the Library of Congress.

State archives and libraries: State archivists often can direct you to large collections of telephone directories. Find a state archivist at the online Council of State Archivists’ Directory of State and Territorial Archives and Records Programs. Find a state librarian at Public­
The Telecommunications History Group: This group has Bell System and Regional Bell Operating Company telephone directories from 1890 through 2001, covering Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, and about 60 years of El Paso, Texas. Not every city is available for every year. Staff provides research services to customers who are unable to access the archives in person. Call (303) 296-1221 or visit the organization’s website to learn more.
Public and university libraries: Large libraries often have old telephone directories for the area in print or on microfilm. Some even have directories from around the country. You’ll find a directory of library websites at LibWeb and