Most maps produced prior to 1900 are located in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, although the map collection does include some facsimile reprints of pre-1900 maps. These are arranged using Library of Congress call numbers and many are represented in the library catalog. Some historic maps have been scanned by various institutions and the images are available on the web. Older maps in our map collection include the following.
- Facsimiles: These can often be found using the library catalog.
- Search the subject begins with : Maps--Facsimiles
- Many of the facsimiles are published by the company Historic Urban Plans. You can search them in the catalog (narrow results using "search within results" or using facets in left-hand column): historic urban plans
- Early 20th century USGS topographic maps: We have many maps in discontinued series (such as the 1:62,500 scale). Arranged by series (scale), then by state and quadrangle name.
Some indexes to help identify these older maps include:
- Map Index to Topographic Quadrangles of the United States 1882-1940, by Riley Moffat.
Map Coll. Ref. GA405 .M64 1986.
The first index to look at for early USGS topographic quadrangles. It contains graphic indexes for maps in standard topographic map series (e.g., 15-minute/1:62,500, 30-minute/1:125,000, 1 degree/1:250,000, etc.).
- Index to Topographic Maps of [State Name].
Located in a filing cabinet drawer near room 226 labeled "Indexes."
These are the older editions of the standard fold-up topographic map indexes produced by the USGS. When available, they are filed in the appropriate state folder. They may identify names of some of the post-1940 15-minute quadrangles that in the 1970's had not yet been superseded by the 7½ minute series quadrangles.
- A Cartobibliography of Separately Published U.S. Geological Survey Special Maps and River Surveys, by Peter Stark.
Map Coll. Ref. GA405 .S737 1989.
This volume indexes maps produced separately from the regular topographic series, such as odd scales or topo series that cover sub-state regions. Any of these maps that we have should be in the drawer labeled "Odd Scales."
- Pre-1972 USGS topographic maps on microfilm: If you can't find an older map in our paper collection, we have all of the pre-1972 quadrangles for several states in the southeastern U.S. (AR, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA). Many of these date to the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Use the indexes mentioned above.
- Soil Survey Maps (by county): Early 20th century maps of some North Carolina counties from USDA soil surveys. To see if and when a soil survey was produced for a particular county, the List of Published Soil Surveys is available online. A 1990 edition of the index is available in the Public Documents Dept. at the call number A 57.38: list/990. Early soil survey maps are available in several places: Map Collection "G" schedule call numbers; Map Collection NC Soil Survey Drawer (filed by county name); and folded in the back of the soil survey books in the US Documents stacks at A 57:38 (you need to use the above referenced list to determine the date). Please ask staff for assistance.
The University of Alabama has digitized historic soil survey maps into MrSID format (requires installing a viewer or browser plug-in).
- Post Route Maps (by state): For many states we have postal route maps from the U.S. Post Office, mostly dating from about 1900 to 1945. These mostly show towns as well as railroad lines that handled mail (which included most railroads at the time, except for a few small branches). Most are in the library catalog under the title "post route map ...". We don't have these for all states.
- Geologic Atlas of the United States: Over 200 folio volumes for scattered areas around the country were produced by the USGS in the late 19th and early 20th century. Besides geology, the topographic sheets in each folio volume provide a wealth of information on the cultural features (structures, roads, railroads, etc.) existing at the time. There is a listing by state in the first drawer that contains this series.
The folios have also been scanned by Texas A&M Univerisity and are available for download into Google Earth. The map images are clipped of their borders, so the extraneous white space, legend, etc., don't show up in Google Earth and they can be seamlessly tiled. Download the index into Google Earth (.kmz file).
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (North Carolina cities & towns): The map collection holds microfilm copies of very detailed North Carolina city maps dating from the 1880s through the mid-20th century. These show outlines of buildings. There are reel listings in a report binder next to the film cabinets.
Somewhat fuzzier (scanned from the black & white microfilm, not from the lithographed color originals), but more broadly accessible, are the Digital Sanborn Maps for North Carolina Cities, available online to Duke users only.
Pre-1923 Sanborn maps for North Carolina cities, in color, are being digitized by UNC-Chapel Hill.
Original paper copies of these maps in color (film and online are black & white) are available for research in the North Carolina Collection at the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill.
- Ward Maps (US cities): Filed in the map microfiche drawer. These detailed maps on microfiche, from the collections of the Library of Congress's Geography and Map Division, cover selected United States cities and date from before 1900. The eye-readable header indicates city and date. Map included are those listed in the bibliography Ward maps of United States cities : a selective checklist of pre-1900 maps in the Library of Congress.
- World War II era maps: We have topographic and thematic maps dating from World War II from the British military (G.S.G.S., or Geographical Section, General Staff) and U.S. military and intelligence (AMS/Army Map Service and OSS/Office of Strategic Services). Arranged using Library of Congress "G" call numbers. Some maps or sets are represented in the online catalog and others in the card catalog, but please ask about other access methods.
Some of the AMS series have been digitized by the Univeristy of Texas at Austin. A link is included to a nice index of all the series together in .kmz format for Google Earth.
- Samuel Thorton Sea Atlas: Filed in the map microfiche drawer. A microfiche copy of an atlas showing world coastlines (with most detail in Europe) at about 1702.