The White Pages: An Introduction

White PagesBefore Google and other search engines made it easy to just type a name into your browser and see hundreds of results (including information such as phone number and address), physical phone books comprised of white and yellow pages served as one of the only means of finding a person's number and address in the 20th century.

The phone book - or "the Book" as it was sometimes called - was updated and released once a year and consisted of all of the landline telephone subscribers in a certain area. The white pages consisted of alphabetically organized personal listings and the yellow pages served as a business directory, usually organized by the type of service the business provided and then alphabetically.

Overview:

History of the White Pages

The very first telephone directory was published on February 21, 1878 in New Haven, Connecticut. However it didn't include any phone numbers! The District Telephone Company of New Haven, in addition to creating the first phone book ever, went on to create the first phone booth, the first payphone that used coins, and the first school for telephone operators (back then the people who manned the switchboards).

The first phone book that the District Telephone Company of New Haven created had only 50 names, and a few were misspelled. It had no numbers because there was still no exchange for the area. This first telephone directory was mainly just to show subscribers who else had a phone and who they could call. Early telephone directories also included instructions for using the phone, such as how to make a call, how to answer, and how to end a call (no good-bye's, just tell people "That is all.", and hang up).

From its humble beginnings the phone book began to grow and grow, just as telephones became more popular. In major cities like New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, the white pages contained millions and millions of names. Some cities, like San Francisco, even had special phone books. San Francisco's Chinatown for many years had it's own phone book that was handwritten every year in Chinese characters. It wasn't alphabetically organized like most directories either, but geographically, by each section of the neighborhood.

Each area of the country released their own phone book and many had characteristics that made it unique, such as cover art and sometimes even poetry. To see interesting telephone directories from the past, Old Telephone Books has a vast collection organized by state and available to view online.

The White Pages and Genealogy

Imagine dating before the internet, some of us might still be able to! Before Match.com and Tinder, when you met someone they might first give you their name and tell you that they were in the phone book. You'd then look them up by last name and give them a call. The phone book was a way of connecting people.

Nowadays, much like old U.S. Censuses, the white pages give us a snapshot into our history, communities, and ancestors. If you have an idea of where your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and even great-great grandparents were living you can look them up in an old phone book.

Genealogy sites, such as Ancestry.com, now contain old telephone directories and allow you to search for family members within them.

Curiosities of the White Pages

There is a legend that the Manhattan telephone directory was so thick that it could be used to bulletproof a vehicle, and that a fruit company in South America used these phone books to protect their cargo from outlaws that would continually try to hijack their trains.

According to Ammon Shea in his book The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads, this story about using the phone book to guard against would-be train robbers and other types of criminals is repeated throughout history, but there is little factual evidence to actually back it up.

Another curious use of the white pages and the phone book would be to tear it in half as a demonstration of a person's strength. In the video below by Scam School they show how to tear a phone book and a deck of cards in half. We do not recommend putting a phone book in an oven like they do!

As opposed to ripping them apart, there are many people who would read and memorize the white pages. Kim Peek, the man who inspired Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man, was a savant and would read and memorize telephone directories, among many other things.

There are also several collectors of phone books. These collectors often have phone books from around the country that they've collected from a number of different sources. It's important to note that it was illegal to take old phone books as they were technically property of the phone companies. Old phone books were typically destroyed in order to make sure that old, invalid information was not being provided.

How Are Residential Phone Numbers That Appear in the White Pages Created?

Before the existence of ten-digit dialing, three letters were placed in front of four digits. These three letters represented the central office the telephone originated from and the four digits identified the specific line a person wished to be connected with. For long distance calls operators were used to connect callers to their endpoint.

As the popularity of the phone grew and more households joined the growing web of the telephone systems, a need for organizing phone numbers arose. In the 1940s the phone carriers in the U.S. along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) joined together to create the North American Numbering Plan (NANP). This plan assured that all telephone numbers would be created in a uniform manner. Existing phone numbers were incorporated into the numbering plan. NANP assured that connecting with others in the U.S. by telephone would be easier than ever. 

The ten-digit phone number that was created consists of three parts. 

Area Code

Area code refers to the  first three numbers in the ten-digit phone number. Area codes were created by NANP and are also referred to as the NPA, the numbering plan area. This specific number represents a specific geological area such as a county or state. NANP has made it possible to make telephone calls a simple task regardless of whether the call is local or long distance.  When NANP was created there were only 86 area codes, however with the demand for phone numbers expanding on a yearly basis, the addition of new area codes continues with some areas having multiple area codes due to the population.  As of today there are nearly 300 area codes within the U.S. and NANP covers the U.S. and its territories, Canada, and many Caribbean islands. 

Below is a table of the area codes in all 50 U.S. states. 

State Area Code(s)
Alabama 205, 251, 256, 334, 938
Alaska 907 
Arizona 480, 520, 602, 623, 928
Arkansas 479, 501, 870 
California 209, 213, 310, 323, 408, 415, 424, 442, 510, 530, 559, 562, 619, 626, 628, 650, 657, 661, 669, 707, 714, 747, 760, 805, 818
Colorado 303, 719, 720, 970 
Connecticut 203, 475, 860, 959 
Delaware 302 
Florida 239, 305, 321, 352, 386, 407, 561, 689, 727, 754, 772, 786, 813, 850, 863, 904, 941, 954
Georgia 201, 202, 203, 205, 206, 209, 210, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 219, 225, 229, 239, 248, 251, 252, 253, 256, 262, 404 
Hawaii 808 
Idaho 208
Illinois 217, 224, 309, 312, 331, 618, 630, 708, 773, 779, 815, 847, 872
Indiana 219, 260, 317, 574, 765, 812 
Iowa 319, 515, 563, 641, 712 
Kansas 316, 620, 785, 913
Kentucky 270, 345, 502, 606, 859
Louisiana 225, 318, 337, 504, 985 
Maine 207 
Maryland 240, 301, 410, 443, 667 
Massachusetts 339, 351, 413, 508, 617, 774, 781, 857, 978 
Michigan 231, 248, 269, 313, 517, 586, 616, 734, 810, 906, 947, 989 
Minnesota 218, 320, 507, 612, 651, 763, 952
Mississippi 228, 601, 662, 664, 769 
Missouri 314, 417, 573, 636, 660, 816 
Montana 406 
Nebraska 308, 402, 531 
Nevada 702, 725, 775 
New Hampshire 603 
New Jersey 201, 551, 609, 732, 848, 856, 862, 908, 973
New Mexico 505, 575 
New York 212, 315, 347, 516, 518, 585, 607, 631, 646, 716, 718, 845, 914, 917, 929 
North Carolina 252, 336, 704, 828, 910, 919, 980, 984 
North Dakota  702
Ohio 216, 234, 283, 330, 380, 419, 440, 513, 567, 614, 740, 937
Oklahoma 405, 539, 580, 918
Oregon 458, 503, 541, 971 
Pennsylvania 215, 267, 272, 412, 484, 570, 610, 717, 724, 814, 878 
Rhode Island 401 
South Carolina 803, 843, 854, 864 
South Dakota 605 
Tennessee 423, 615, 629, 731, 865, 901, 931
Texas 210, 214, 254, 281, 325, 346, 361, 409, 430, 432, 469, 512, 682, 713, 737, 806, 817, 830, 832, 903, 915, 936, 940, 956, 972 
Utah 385, 435, 801 
Vermont 802
Virginia 276, 434, 540, 571, 703, 757, 804
Washington 206, 253, 360, 425, 509, 564 
Washington, D.C. 202 
West Virginia 304, 681 
Wisconsin 262, 414, 534, 608, 715, 920 
Wyoming 307

Prefix Number

The prefix, also known as the NXX, represents the phone carrier's central office and the specific switch that the phone line is connected to.

Line Number

The last four numbers represent the specific phone line and it is assigned to the switch level in use. Having the line number allows you to add or change phones. The changing process is possible due to the number not being attached to the phone itself, but the actual phone line.

What does the NPA-NXX-xxxx of a Residential Phone Number Refer to?

The NPA refers to the Numbering Plan Area, also known as the area code. Area codes are created by NANP, which divides each territory into a zone based on geographical location. The proper NPA has a range of [2-9] for the first digit while the second and third digit has a range of [0-9]. There are six toll-free codes: 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. The toll-free numbers are only reserved for businesses and non residential lines and allow callers to reach the recipient without being debited for the call.

The NXX, also known as the prefix number, refers to the central office or the exchange number. The proper range for the central office number is [2-9] for the first digit, and [0-9] for the remaining two digits. The number 1 cannot be used in both of the last two digits of NXX due to confusion with N11 codes (Specific Number Calling). N11 codes allow access to specific phone services provided by the North American Numbering Plan. The codes include:

  • 211: Provides access to community services and information (Non-Emergency)
  • 311: Provides access to city government numbers (Non-Emergency)
  • 411: Directory assistance (Non-Emergency)
  • 511: Provides traffic or police information (Non-Emergency)
  • 611: Provides access to the telephone provider's customer service and repair (Non-Emergency)
  • 711: TDD and Relay Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Non-Emergency)
  • 811: Provides access to public utility location (Non-Emergency)
  • 911: Emergency services (police, fire, ambulance/rescue services)

The XXXX refers to the subscriber number, or line number. The proper range for the subscriber number is [0-9] for each digit. The aforementioned central number is considered to be part of the subscriber number as it allows customers to forward their complete number to their mobile phone line when necessary.

How Were White Pages Used?

People could look up a number in the white pages by last name alphabetically, some directories even included home addresses. You could look friends, family and acquaintances (remember this is before everyone had their contact list in their back pocket on their cell phones).

People could request to have their number private and unpublished by contacting their phone company. The white pages only had landline numbers at that time, and was not a cell phone directory.

How Are White Pages Used Today?

Now, there are many online white pages directories that can be searched by entering the name of the person whose number you're looking for. Most people no longer want to receive a physical copy of the directory as it's seen as a waste of paper. Phone carriers, like Verizon, have gone green, and many cities have chosen to ban the phone book. Only the yellow pages are still delivered regularly as these are seen as profitable by the phone companies. Businesses pay to be listed in the yellow pages.

What Is a White Pages Reverse Phone Lookup?

CallerSmart provides a white pages phone directory that is only searchable by phone number, also known as a reverse phone lookup. To create our  database we've taken dozens of the best public and private data sources for phone book listings and compiled them into our phone book.

Reverse Phone LookupKeeping our white pages up-to-date really is a daunting task. Americans move around and change their number a lot! It's also easier than ever to get throwaway burner number. A person can grab a new number, use it for a short time, and then discard it after just a few uses. All of these factors combine to make it challenging to keep listings accurate. But CallerSmart has found an answer to this problem, by letting our community of users update our phone book and help others identify unknown numbers.

To make it fun we've created a game out of leaving feedback on numbers and updating our phone book listings. Users can earn Caller I.Q. points, unlock Smart Badges and rewards, and see where they rank among other community members! The more you contribute the higher your rank!

To search our white pages simply enter a phone number into the search bar on our website or in our reverse phone lookup app for iPhone and we will search our free database for results. For more information on a number we also offer the option to purchase Premium Lookup Reports with credits, which will search private databases. Searching private databases with CallerSmart is risk-free, we do not charge a credit unless there is more information available.

Are Residential Phone Numbers Recycled?

There is a great deal of churn when it comes to phone numbers. As mentioned, we work hard to off-set the changing phone listings by routinely updating our databases, our community of users also helps a lot by updating phone listings and leaving feedback on numbers in our white pages.

Though we work hard, you may still find a listing that is out of date. This is due to the practice of number recycling. Once a phone number has been deactivated, it has the potential to get reactivated and re-assigned to someone else through phone number recycling. Standard time for reassignment and reactivation is around 90 days.

This can be a problem if a carrier fails to update the account information associated with a phone number, there is the potential risk of personal information of the previous owner being compromised. The new account owner may have access to the previous owner's account mistakenly.

Additionally, many people who receive recycled phone numbers will often receive calls from debt collectors looking for the previous owner of the phone number, or they may be plagued by spam calls due to the previous number being compromised.

How Can I Remove My Information From CallerSmart's White Pages?

To remove your information from our phone book you can claim your number and choose to opt-out your name and address from displaying whenever another user searches your number. This can be done either here on our website or via our iPhone app. We do require that you verify that you own the number in order to maintain the integrity of our community phone book.

How Do I Get CallerSmart's White Pages Directory on My Phone?

If you have an iPhone or an iPad you can download our free caller ID app from the App Store and access our phone book. If you don't have a iPhone or iPad you can still access our free white pages directory from your mobile browser, as our website is also optimized for smaller displays.