I don’t know how new this resource is, but it’s new to me. The University of Pittsburgh’s Digital Research Library has a collection called “Historic Pittsburgh City Directories,” available at http://digital.library.pitt.edu/p/pitttextdir/. This site contains 125 directories published between 1815 and 1945.
You can either search the site by simple keyword search or an advanced search that includes Boolean and proximity search. You can also browse by author or title if you like, though this means you’ll be finding entire volumes, not names within volumes.
I tried to do a search for Smith, but I got overwhelmed with results. So I backed up and did another search, this time for clockmaker I got 24 matches in 14 records. The “records” are the city directories. So the search results show city directories which contain your keyword, with a count of how many matches there are in that directory for your keyword.
Click on the “Results details” page and you’ll get a little more information about the directory, but more importantly you’ll get the lines that matched your keyword search.
Now if you’re doing simple name/occupation searches. But if you want to explore the community as described in the directory, click on the “Table of Contents” link. You’ll get more details about the directory and then, yes, a table of contents. In the case of the directory in the screenshot, I had the option to link to a variety of maps, city section and borough directories, and even pages of advertisements. When you click on these items you get linked to individual pages through which you can page, zoom, etc. And if you’re at all interested in lithography check out this amazing ad.
I saw that there was an option to view the page as an image or as a PDF file, which would be an easy way to grab pages you find interesting. Sadly though when I tried it, it didn’t work. I got a page with a system error notification. You can still right-click and save page images if you like.