Recently my local ham club celebrated its 75th anniversary. I took up a small project of trying to trace some of the clubs history. A large portion of that entailed looking up old callsigns, to help piece things together.
QRZ's notes give the history of FCC records and the dilemma. Basically they didn't start to use computers for keeping records till the 1980's. Prior everything was kept on paper. The only publicly searchable database is the 1993 one that QRZ has.
Hamcall.net has obviously been transscribing old flying horse callbooks. They have a resonably priced subscription service that will give you electronic access to an archive of of old callsign data; 1921, 1954, 1960, 1969, 1977, 1983, and 1995 to present.
If you are looking for some really old data for free, there is a pretty good guide at earlyradiohistory.us
These are Google Book and Hathi Trust scans of government publications mostly prior to the creation of the FCC in 1934. At some point, apparently in the 1930's, the U.S. Government stopped
publishing call books. Instead, this task was taken up by private
For many-many years the resource to have was a printed callbook.
The Citizen's Radio Service Bureau (508 South
Dearborn St., Chicago IL) published the first issue of Citizen's Radio Call Book 1921 to 1932.
Then in about 1926; The "Radio Amateur Call Book Magazine" were published by Radio Amateur Call Book, Inc., Chicago, IL. These are commonly referred to as the "Flying Horse Call Books" because of the distinctive artwork always appearing on the cover. Later on the Flying Horse Callbook was published by Watson-Guptill Publishing which was a division of BPI Communications. In normal times the books were published quarterly. 1997 marked the end of the printed callbook. From then on it has only existed as CD-ROM form, the work done by contracted by a German firm, "ITfM" - "Information Technology for People." The German firm ended up buying out Watson-Guptill Publication entirely in 2003.
Anyway seeing has how old callbook data really isn't copyright, I decided to scan the ones I had access to when I was researching my clubs history. You can view them on the internet archive here:
I scanned them the best I could, in case someone really wants a project, of trying to convert it all to text and possibly put the info into a database. Because printed call books were only organized by callsign, not by name.
One of the problems with converting to text (besides possible OCR errors is that the data was on multiple lines. So you have to script something to look for a possible callsign match to indicate the start of a new record.
Anyway if anyone has any scans or of old printed books they would like to get to me, I'll see to it they get posted for all.