View Full Version : Why are yellow pages yellow?

06-01-2002, 09:05 AM
Anybody know why yellow pages are yellow? I recall reading an undocumented account recently that claimed the first phone book was supposed to be in white, but the printer ran out of white paper and used yellow instead.....can't remember where I saw the story though. Can anyone confirm or refute this?

06-01-2002, 10:02 AM
About.com yields this, with some URL surgery:


Scroll down to "History of the Yellow Pages"

How did the Yellow Pages come to be yellow? While the origin of the term "Yellow Pages" is not clear, the earliest traceable use of yellow paper goes back to the days of the wild west. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1883, a printer of telephone directories ran out of white paper and substituted yellow. Ironically, research in 1906 discovered that, except for black and white, the black and yellow combination is the easiest to read.

In terms of the Yellow Pages we know today, though, some credit Reuben H. Donnelly with producing, in 1886, the first Yellow Pages directory featuring business names and phone numbers categorized by the types of products and services provided. Others believe that the first separate listings of classified advertisements printed on yellow paper were published in 1906 by the Michigan State Telephone Company.

06-01-2002, 10:16 AM
thanks....that's somewhat helpful; while it mentions the same incident wherein yellow paper was (at least once) used in place of white, I don't believe that one can infer from this that thereafter everyone else followed suit just because of that one incident.

06-01-2002, 10:45 AM
I believe the telephone directory practice of printing some sections on colored paper originated with city directories, which list all the adult residents of a city, their occupations, and their addresses. City directories go back to the 18th century, but by the turn of the 20th century, I believe, city directories had begun to publish on three colors of paper: white for the residential section, another color for the business classified section, and a third color for the paid advertising section. Of course, you can't see this today if you're using only a black and white microfilm of the directory. But some research libraries do have large collections of the original books.

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