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Maps - California

The content of this guide was created by Bob Sathrum, retired 6/2013

Historical Maps


  • American Geographic Society Library Digital Map Collection: California

  • American Memory (Library of Congress) Includes images of over 900 historical California maps. Using "Search All Collection" enter "california maps" to browse all California maps in the collection or enter more specific keywords. Includes "bird's eye" view maps for many keys cities in California.

  • Automobile Club of Southern California collection, 1892-1963 (University of Southern California Digital Archive) Includes approximately 100 examples of strip maps of southern California roads for the years 1912-1936. These maps offer a continuous, definitive record of the development of roadways and roadside services in the region. Strip maps illustrate major routes between destinations and include a list of approved hotels, restaurants and garages . The overall site also includes photos, engineering notebooks, and the Auto Club magazine.

  • Barry Lawrence Ruderman Collection (Stanford University Libraries) Includes over 550 historical California maps and images.

  • California Historical Maps and Atlases (Historical Map Works) Contains more than 6,500 maps from over 350 historical atlases spanning 1579 through 1964. Maps have a limited free view.

  • David Rumsey Collection Included within the 28,000 online historical maps are over 3500 maps and images of California and its regions and cities, dating mostly from the 19th century.

  • Historic Map Index (Broer Map Library) Indexes over 2000 digital historical maps on California available from 100 major map collections.

  • Historical Maps of California (University of Alabama) Contains approximately 100 images of California historial maps selected from the University of Alabama Map Library and other sources.

  • Calisphere: Maps (California Digital Library) Includes over 2500 images of California historical maps selected from the University of California libraries and museums and from a variety of cultural heritage organizations. Browse or search by keyword.

  • Union Catalogue of Map Collections (California Map Society) Catalog of approximately 700 maps of California and the West from three collections: The Huntington Library, the Pasadena Museum of History and the Altadena Historical Society. Each entry includes an online image.

  • WPA Land Use Survey Maps for the City of Los Angeles, 1933-1939 (University of Southern California Digital Archive) Series of 345 hand-colored land use survey maps produced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The maps resulted from a land use survey conducted from 1933 to 1939 for the city of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning that covered approximately 460 square miles.

Individual Maps and Atlases

  • Atlas of Historical County Boundaries: California (Newberry Library) Interactive map allows you to zoom and pan, select layers to display and time period to portray of California counties and county boundaries beginning with 1850. There is also a county-by-county chronology and a statewide consolidated chronology of all changes in county boundaries, names, organization and attachments.

  • California 1895 (US GenNet) California state map from the 1895 Rand McNally New Atlas of the World. Includes inset of Central California. More detailed maps of each county are also available.

  • California 49: Forty-nine Maps of California from the Sixteenth Century to the Present (Heckrotte & Sweetkind) 1999 (Case GA 413 C35 1999)

  • California County Boundary Historical Maps (Berlo) 2002 (Atlas G 1526 F7 B47 2002) Contains two sets of maps that show the development of California's county boundaries from 1850-2000. The first set consists of 45 maps of the entire state that show each year when a county boundary was changed. The second set subdivides the state into 18 regional sheets, each of which shows every line that has ever been a county boundary, the boundary date, and the associated county.

  • California County Maps and Atlases (N2Genealogy) Shows county boundaries by year and in relation to the decennial census.

  • California as an Island Features six maps dating from 1656 to 1779 from the Quivira Collection that show the California landmass as an island.

  • California as an Island (Johannes Vingboons) 1639. From exhibit American Treasures of the Library of Congress

  • California Labor History Map (Cornford and California State Library) Interactive atlas to over 1200 key events in the state’s labor history that have affected the lives of working people. Search by location, date, or keyword. Detailed short essays describe the larger historical context surrounding many of these events. California Labor History : a history of labor's contributions to California's development, 1769-2003 (Cornford) 2003 (map G 4361 G8 2003 C3) marks 262 significant events in California labor history from 1769 to 2003.

  • The Changing Counties (CalSign) Series of interactive maps starting in 1850 that show creation, spitting and combining of county boundaries.

  • Historic Photos and Maps of California Highways (Furqueron) Earliest maps date from 1926

  • Historical Atlas of California (Beck and Haase) 1974 (atlas G 1526 S1 B4 1974)

  • Historical Atlas of California, with Original Maps (Hayes) 2007 (atlas G 1526 S1 H39 2007) Collection of almonst 500 historical maps with accompanying explantion that cover 500 years of California history.

  • Historical Map and Chart Collection (US NOAA. Office of Coast Survey) Contains over 20,000 maps and charts from the late 1700s to present day. The collection includes US nautical charts, hydrographic surveys, topographic surveys, bathymetric maps, geodetic surveys, city plans and Civil War battle maps. Search by keyword, geographic area, type of map, date, or chart number.

  • Indian Land Cessions in the United States 1784-1894California 1 and California 2 (Royce) 1899. These maps appeared in the 18th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1896-97, Part 2. (US Docs SI 2.1: 1896-97 Pt 2). The maps identify treaties by number. You must consult the report to identify the specific treaty.

  • The Island of California: a History of the Myth (Polk) 1991 (F 864 P67 1991) History of California as an island on maps in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

  • Map of the Public Surveys in California and Nevada to Accompany Report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office 1866 (General Land Office) 1866. First large colored state map issued by the General Land Office that shows the progress of the public land survey in California.

  • Map and Stories (California Map Society) Series of nine maps ranging from 1493 to 1849 that depict California, including California as an island. Each map is accompanied by a brief description.

  • The Mapping of California as an Island: an Illustrated Checklist (McLaughlin and Mayo) 1995 (print copy available in GA 413 M38 1995) Illustrated checklist and commentary on over 250 maps and other sources that show California as an island.

  • Maps of California Counties: 1850 to Present (California State Association of Counties) Series of six maps that show changes in counties by decade.

  • Population History Maps of California Places, 1770 to 2000 (Berlo) 2000 (ref HB 3525 C2 B471 2000) Consists of approximately 1,000 maps that show the location and size of populated places in California at 10-year intervals from 1770 through 2000. A companion work is Population History of California Places (Berlo) 2000 (ref HB 3525 C2 B47 2000) that includes population figures for California places at 10-year intervals from 1846 to 2000; yearly intervals for early California places 1769 to 1850; and other population tables. Also includes a set of 50 maps showing all included place names.

  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps - Starting in 1867 the Sanborn Map Company began the production of fire insurance maps that eventually covered 12,000 communities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. These large scale maps, drawn at scales of 1"=50' and 1"=100', were created to assist fire insurance agents in determining the degree of risk associated with commercial, industrial, and residential property within a community. Shown on the maps are the "footprints" of individual buildings, including their dimensions, shape, height, location of doors and windows, building material, and uses; ethnicity of occupants (occasionally); and other property details and city improvements, including lot lines, street widths, fire hydrants, and other fire-fighting facilities. These maps frequently represent the most detailed information on historical urban land use and are used by scholars and professionals in history, geography, architecture, and environmental engineering. Akey to map notations provided by the Sanborn Map Company is available. For additional background information on fire insurance maps see:

    • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (UC Berkeley Map Library) This is the introduction found in Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress: A Checklist (Library of Congress. Geography and Map Division) 1981 (Docs LC 5.2:F51) that lists fire insurance maps found in the Library of Congress.

    • Fire Insurance Maps: Their History and Applications (Oswald) 1997 (HG 9771 O89 1997)

    The following California libraries contain extensive collections of microform, print, or digital Sanborn fire insurance maps that supplement HSU Library holdings for northwestern California. Indexes are available at each library to their California holdings.