Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bird's Eye View Maps

Ad for the upcoming Boston bird's eye view map in 1865.
"Bird's Eye View of Boston," ad, Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, MA), p 3, col 4, 13 Jan 1865; digital image, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 15 Oct 2015).

A while back I did a brief post about the bird's eye maps available at Big Map Blog.  Today I will give some more examples and places to find such maps.

The map is 2ft by 2ft 10in, and went for $10 (a relative value of about $150 in today's money).  Follow the link below to see the map, which you can zoom way in on.  "Bird's eye view of Boston," map, drawn by B. F. Nutting and created by J. Mayer & Co, published by B. B. Russell & Co (Boston), 1866; digital image, Digital Commonwealth Massachusetts Collections Online ( : accessed 15 Oct 2015).

Same basic view in 2015 via Google Earth with 3D buildings.  What a world we live in when I can just generate this view on the fly in a few minutes, while Nutting et al had to spend months producing one view!  The original lithograph was supposed to be about 2000 ft elevation, this view is about 2700 feet.  I guess some of the harbor has been filled in since 1865.

Lower left of the map, showing trains (today's North Station). 

Closeup of some of the wharves.

Closeup of the Frog Pond area (the "Common and Public Garden").

Amon Carter Museum's "Texas Bird's-Eye Views" has some great information, including artists' bios, and teaching resources (which are geared for public schools but can be used by genealogists to think about different ways these maps can be used).

A call for subscribers.  "Bird's-Eye View of Dallas," Dallas Weekly Herald (Dallas, Texas), 28 Dec 1872, vol XX, issue 16, p 2, col 1; digital image, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 15 Oct 2015).
These calls for subscribers proved successful:
Snapshot of Herman Brosius. Bird’s Eye View of the City of Dallas Texas 1872, 1872. Lithograph (hand-colored), 15.8 x 22.9 in. Lithographer unknown. Dallas Historical Society.
If you go to the site you can zoom way in, and the accompanying text includes some more detail and discussion on selected buildings/structures, as well as comparisons of later similar maps:

An example of the Texas Bird's-Eye Views features.  I love this kind of analysis.

I'm a fan of maps in general, but these "3D" or panoramic maps take things to another level by presenting cities the way we usually see them, not directly above.  If you have ancestors in cities at the time any of these maps were produced (you can start at Texas Bird's-Eye Views (for Texas), Big Map Blog, Historic Map Works,  David Rumsey Map Collection, and of course the Library of Congress) you have an opportunity to understand better where they were living and how that would impact how they lived and what they did.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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