The Blue Book: A directory of Columbus’ elite

The thought of a private directory for the wealthy and well-connected may sound fictional, but it actually existed. And still exists today. The Social Register took a number of forms, but in Columbus it was in the form of a Blue Book containing the names and addresses of the city’s elite. In later years, some members chose to omit their home addresses, opting rather to list just a telephone number. Some members, however, also published the addresses of their summer homes—usually in Canada, New England, or Michigan. While simply being listed in the book may have been seen as a badge of social prominence, it would have also serve as a handy address book for those in the same social circles; allowing for the sending of letters, invitations to events, and holiday cards.

A 1934 movie called Social Register poked fun at the rigidity of “high society” during the time period.

In Columbus, the register was organized by the Dau Publishing Company of New York City. The book contained names of individuals and families in the City of Columbus and selected suburban towns in Franklin County. The Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) offers digital copies of the books online for multiple years. According to CML, “These directories listed prominent residents alphabetically by name and also by address. Information supplied included ladies’ maiden names, receiving days, and other valuable social information like club memberships. The books contain a number of advertisements for local businesses, services and schools.”

In order to better understand the geographic distribution of Blue Book members throughout the area, the addresses were geo-coded and mapped out for three separate editions: 1908, 1919, and 1924-25. The results show that Olde Town East and Franklin Park were unequivocally the location of choice for Columbus’ elite during these time periods. The 1924-25 register marked a significant shift, however, to include Bexley, Upper Arlington, and Clintonville as well.

Click the map above to toggle the year layers on and off to illustrate the change in density and location of Blue Book households over the three time periods. Click on individuals dots to see the address of the household. The 1924-25 edition of the book had more than 3,000 addresses listed, a marked increase from previous years.