McPherson has a rich business and industrial history, and researching that history is now much easier, thanks to a new resource created by the McPherson Public Library. The McPherson Historical Business Database includes information about businesses, industries, and professionals beginning with Harrison Bowker’s general store in 1872. The database may be searched by name, business type, and street address.
The library fields a significant number of research requests — many of them from out of state — each year from people seeking information about local businesses and industries.
“We receive inquiries from people whose grandfather owned a business, for example, and they want to know more about it and its location,” said Jennie Hall, Head of Adult Services. “Many people also want to know what businesses were in a particular building.”
This new resource has been in development since 2010 and was originally intended as a tool for use by the library staff. But with the success of the other online historical databases, such as the MPL Obituary Index, Hall decided to use the same search platform, upload it to the library website, and make it public.
Library service desk staff created the database, which currently has over 3,500 entries, using information found in city directories, telephone books, early newspapers, gazetteers, atlases, and Sanborn fire insurance maps. Additional data from The Linn Peterson Collection and the archives of local historian David Nigh brought the Historical Business Database to a new level. Research and input work has taken approximately three years.
The new resource joins the MPL Obituary Index, which currently has over 30,000 records, and the McPherson Photo Album, which has more than 1,500 historic images of McPherson and the county. All are accessible via the library website.
“There are some large public libraries which may have an online historical resource similar to one of ours,” said Library Director Steve Read, “but I have yet to see a public library of any size whose online historical presence even approaches the variety, depth, and functionality of these three resources.”
Read said that the database is a work in progress and is not comprehensive. He encourages the public to not only use this resource but to let the library know if they can add additional information to any of the records.
The new McPherson Historical Business Database may be found on the library website at www.macpl.org. Click on the Local History & Genealogy option on the homepage and then on the link for the MPL Historical Business Database.