Panoramic maps at the Library of Congress
January 1, 2020 5:24 AM   Subscribe

The panoramic map was a popular cartographic form used to depict cities and towns in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known also as bird's-eye views, perspective maps, and aero views, panoramic maps are nonphotographic representations of cities portrayed as if viewed from above at an oblique angle. The Library of Congress has a large collection of digitized maps, including high resolution scans. You can filter by location, date, subject, etc.
posted by carter (13 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
These are incredible, thanks so much for this.

What's the best way to turn one of these in to an actual print to frame and hang up?
posted by saladin at 5:42 AM on January 1

I love images of places like Childress, Texas. Completely unremarkable towns, tiny, both then and now. But this magnificent aerial perspective panoramic drawing! I guess it was a form of marketing at the time? A key feature of many Texas maps like this is the lovingly drawn courthouse; 19th century Texas was very proud of its courthouse architecture. Sadly this particular courthouse didn't survive, it was replaced in 1939. Others did, like Lockhart's (as seen in The Leftovers).

If you like this kind of thing you might also like the very-low-key subreddit /r/papertowns, which has people posting high resolution panoramic maps. A lot of historical content. My favorite are the 17th and 18th century European ones, trying to match the old city to the modern one.
posted by Nelson at 7:28 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]

I reckon the surveyors would also sell "listings" in the maps going door to door to fund their creation. A lot of the unmarked buildings are likely people/businesses who didn't pony up.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:43 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this. I found a late nineteenth century map for a nearby village. These were done again in the 1990's, I think, in a cartoonish style and were definitely promotions for local businesses aimed at tourists.
posted by Botanizer at 8:47 AM on January 1

What's the best way to turn one of these in to an actual print to frame and hang up?

Get the highest resolution version in the least-lossy format available, find an actual print shop with a drum printer or similar equipment (not necessarily just a Kinkos FedEx Office), get them to do the file with their best printing process, voila!

Expect to pay real money for anything of actual size. I got a thing done once that ran me over $50, but the quality is really amazing.
posted by hippybear at 11:16 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

Very cool! Thank you!
FWIW, this is literally the first site I've ever run across that uses the jpeg2000 file format for images (the über-huge jpegs).
posted by Thorzdad at 11:45 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

I didn't even know jpeg2000 was a thing.
posted by Ickster at 1:36 PM on January 1

Oh. I misread the title as a panoramic map OF the Library of Congress. But no, it wasn't.

I mean don't get me wrong, these maps are incredible. But still. I was hoping for a panoramic map of the Library of Congress.
posted by happyroach at 1:39 PM on January 1

This isn't exactly that, but here's something close.
posted by hippybear at 4:04 PM on January 1

The Boston Public Library's Norman Leventhal Map Center has a ton of 19th-century panorama maps of New England towns and Boston neighborhoods (here's a cool one of Hyde Park, back when it was its own town, not a Boston neighborhood).
posted by adamg at 4:15 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

My wife found a guy on Etsy over in Europe with a business model that boils down to "Buy a bigass HP printer and rolls of adhesive vinyl", sent along the high res copy of this 1872 Bird's Eye of Philadelphia, and now it covers the wall of our little bathroom. It enlarged beautifully, considering it's an insert from Harper's, and we blew it up to about 8' tall. I think we ended up paying about $150 for the thing.

There are also stateside companies like Murals Your Way that will do work like this, and while it's not going to be as cheap, there's a mature business behind what you're buying.

The online archives of the LOC are an absolute treasure, I can't even fathom what the actual collection is like.
posted by Leviathant at 6:38 PM on January 1

Over at Reddit, there's /r/papertowns. One of my favorite subreddits. Featuring not just the panoramic, birds-eye views of American cities, but also the cartoon maps of the 70s through 90s, historical reconstructions of ancient cities, medieval city maps, and many others.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 8:58 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

There are various online vendors selling these as well, such as World Maps Online.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:14 PM on January 1

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