How Some Amazing Online Maps Will Help You Explore American History

online maps american history

If you love maps and American history, this is for you. The Library of Congress (LOC) joined forces with the Digital Public Library of America to bring rare and historic maps online for everyone to enjoy.

“The Library of Congress’s extraordinary resources will be exponentially more available to everyone in the United States through DPLA. This partnership will benefit everyone, from curious thinkers to scholars,” Amy Ryan, President of the DPLA’s Board of Directors, says in a statement. The Library of Congress expects to add a significant portion of its digital items to the original trio of collections over time, covering other collections such as photos, maps, and sheet music.

Through LOC's Digital Collections, you'll find thousands of items from three major LOC maps collections—the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and panoramic maps collections. Browse for maps by state or region.

About the Collections

  • The Revolutionary War collection represents an important historical record of the mapping of North America and the Caribbean. Maps and charts in this bibliography will continue to be added to the online collection each month. Go here to learn about how the increased North American exploration in the 18th century created a greater demand for improvement in the quality of maps, charts, and plans.
  • The Civil War collection contains reconnaissance, sketch, theater-of-war maps, and battle maps made by Major Jedediah Hotchkiss for Generals Lee and Jackson, General Sherman's Southern military campaigns, and maps taken from diaries, scrapbooks, and manuscripts all available for the first time in one place. Go here to learn about the history of mapping the Civil War, including scholarly articles on Confederate Mapping, Union Mapping, Field Mapping, and more.
  • The panoramic maps collections show a popular cartographic form used to depict U.S. and Canadian cities and towns during 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. Although not generally drawn to scale, they show street patterns, individual buildings, and major landscape features in perspective.

How to View and Download the Maps

The Digital Public Library of America is a portal—effectively, a searchable catalog—that aggregates existing digitized content from major sources such as libraries, archives, museums, and cultural institutions. It provides users with links back to the original content-provider site where the material can be viewed, read, or, in some cases, downloaded.

Maps and other large images are presented as GIF or JPEG files. These files require no special viewers unless you choose to download and view maps offline.

For off-line viewing, you can download a possible four formats:

  • GIF Format thumbnail
  • JPEG format
  • JPEG2000 format
  • TIFF format