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Maps: Old Maps at Duke

The Map Collection at Perkins Library and sources for online maps and related information.

Older Maps

Rubenstein Library: Most maps in the Duke University Libraries produced prior to 1900 are located in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and can be found using the library catalog.

Fascimile reprints: The Perkins Map Collection does include some facsimile reprints of pre-1900 maps. These are arranged using Library of Congress call numbers and can also be found using the library catalog.

On the web: Some historic maps have been scanned by various other institutions and the images are available on the web

US Topographic Maps

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 They may identify names of some of the post-1940 15-minute quadrangles that in the 1970's had not yet been superseded by the 7½ minute series quadrangles.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. Most of these series should be cataloged and can be found in the library catalog.

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.

Perkins Map Collection

Older maps in our map collection include the following.

  • Facsimiles: These can often be found using the library catalog.
    • Search the subject heatdingMaps--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
  • Old Topographic Maps: See box at left.
  • 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 the Map Librarian 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 / Railroads (by state):  For many states we have postal route maps from the U.S. Post Office, mostly dating from around 1900 to 1945. These show towns as well as those railroad lines that handled mail (which included most railroads at the time, except for a few small branches). Roads used by the postal service are stylized. These are in the library catalog under the title "post route map ...".  A few are in the Rubenstein Special Collections Library. We don't have these for all states.
    Older digitized Post Route maps:
  • 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.
    • In our collection (flat map cases), 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.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (North Carolina cities & towns)
  • 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.  These maps or sets are represented in the online catalog.
    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.
    There are online graphic indexes to many of the AMS and GSGS series from the Univeristy of California, Berkeley.
  • 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.