Oldest USGS Maps of New York State – Easy Access to 283 Topographical Quads

Each of the original New York USGS Maps ( “Quads”)  is now available for easy viewing on our store. These are the first detailed maps published by the US Geological Service beginning in the late 1800s. USGS maps were the very best road maps when first made. You can get these maps from the USGS website (that’s where we got our copies..) but you can find and view “your” map quicker here.

There are 283 NY state USGS 15′ maps.  Each covers an area of about 12  x  17 miles, and is shown on our four index maps, seen below at the top of the web page.


Below is a the NYC – Long Island index map.  Let’s say your area might be on the Hempstead map. (Long Island)


To see the Hempstead map, type the name in the search bar (upper left corner)  to go directly to the quad’s page. (You can also browse through the 283 maps but that’s slower…)


The Hempstead 1898 map page shows up. Note the name 1898 (1898).  This means its the original 1898 printing.  You can click on the image of the quad to view a zoomable low-quality image of the quad, or you can purchase a high-quality print.



We also have a searchable collection of nearly 3,000 quads featuring multiple editions of each quad (shown below), sorted alphabetically and beginning with quads on the Connecticut border.

Screenshot (7)


Marginal Notes

An observant friend pointed out a unique feature of one of our favorite maps.

The large scale county maps of the mid-1800s are popular resources for historians and genealogists. The detail shown on the maps has both historic and artistic appeal. The border of the Hartford County, Connecticut Smith’s wall map from 1855 is chock full of featured homes and businesses, as well as scenes from nature. Owners of these structures paid a fee to the publisher to add their images to the map. We benefit by being able to see the buildings which may no longer exist.

At the eastern boundary of the Town of Enfield, there is an advertisement that is less obvious until you take a close look. The Shaker community is noted, with designations for the North Family, South Family, East Family, West Family, and Church Family. An unusual note is added, saying, “Fresh seeds from Herbs/ Swifts, Brooms, etc./ Wholesale are reasonable terms.”  It is also attributed “By Jefferson White.”

The 1850 federal census of Enfield reveals that Jefferson White, aged 45 in 1850, was a Trustee of the Church Family, and born in NH. Jeff’n White’s store is located in the center of the settlement on the map.EnfieldCT_1855_ShalersClose


Hidden Gold in Census Enumeration District Maps

Many genealogists may have searched Enumeration District Maps as we anxiously awaited the 1940 census to be indexed. The Census Bureau did not generally create new maps to delineate the enumeration districts. They used what was available. Sometimes those maps were surprisingly detailed. Some had the names of residents listed on them. Take a look at this map from Buckland, Franklin County, MA. The underlying map is not dated, but it lists all residents outside of the more densely populated village centers. This could be very useful in locating family members in this era; most of the New England maps with names included date from the 1860s to 1870s, such as the Beers Atlases.

Lenox, in Berkshire County, has a similarly detailed map. I’ll be flipping through the maps that we have here on the web site and highlight a few more. The Massachusetts Enumeration District maps from 1940 era are here.

Although the residents’ names were not contained on the Rhode Island maps, we have combined the partial maps together electronically to make them easier to view than the multiple pages found at the National Archives web site. If you would like a copy, you can download a free copy from our web site here.

You can see from this ED map of Barre, in Washington County, Vermont, that some maps were superimposed on topographic maps.

As we reorganize some of the maps we have in our digital files, we will add to this topic.  As in all aspects of genealogy, sometimes you just get lucky!


Griswold Mill Through Map-History, Turners Falls, MA

Griswold Mill Through Map-History, Turners Falls, MA

Railroad Salvage,” “Rockdale,” “Griswold Mill” are some of the names that the large brick mill on Power Street in Turners Falls, between the Connecticut River and power canal, has carried. The memories of working, shopping, and living in the shadow of the monolith are alive in current and former residents of the northern Connecticut River valley. The decaying structure breathed its last before 2017 was rung in on Saturday, December 31 when it went up in flames.

The mill structure appears prominently in the Birdseye View of Turners Falls, printed in 1877 by C.H. Vogt & Company in Milwaukee, below.  For the full map, click here.

tfcotton_1877_tfbird_lt150According to a local history called “Picturesque Franklin” 1891 [Chas. F. Warner, editor]:

The Griswold cotton mills had their origin at Colrain, where the late Joseph Griswold, whose portrait appears on this page, began business as long ago as 1832. He incorporated his company in 1840, as the Griswoldville Mfg. Co. The mill burned down and in 1856-8 he built and started the present mill at Griswoldville, Colrain, now called No. 1 mill. In 1865 he took his three sons into partnership and began to build his No. 2 mill at Willis Place, Colrain, and started it in 1867-8. In 1879 they established the mill at Turners Falls and incorporated the concern there as the Turners Falls Cotton Mills.

The 1884  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map contains details of the structure. Uses that affect flammability and potential for fire damage, including the presence of a night watchman, size of the fire department, and water supply, are noted. Maps of the surrounding area in Turners Falls are here.

tfcotton_1884_01-150Some changes can be seen in the 1914 map, where a wing was added to the southwest and the production of “light sheetings and bandages” is noted:


In an update from 1941, the building was used for storage by the Crescent Corporation. Manufacturing had left the area around the power canal, save for the paper mill to the north.



In this photograph from the 1950s, the Rockdale name is visible on the roof.


Ruby Vine’s voice was heard in the advertisements for its final incarnation, Railroad Salvage Stores.

Sound and video memories bring a taste of the past to life. Click to listen.

Lack of maintenance for many years made its chances of rehabilitation very slim, The roof had largely collapsed, hastening its decay. Now, as smoldering rubble, signs of the productive past will soon be very hard to find.





Acadia National Park on the Map – 1776-1960 (Old Maps of Mount Desert Island)

Mount Desert Island – one of the largest islands on the US east coast, is home to Acadia National Park and the Town of Bar Harbor. It’s a very popular summer destination – visited by 1000s of people daily.


1887 Colby-Stuart with homeowner names

Here is a collection of historical maps of the Island. Except for the first map, the maps are shown by year. The goal is to  describe most of the known historical maps of Acadia National Park.

We begin with the 1887  map from the Colby and Stuart state atlas.  The National Park was not yet established, but the island was getting summer visitors, especially the Bar Harbor area.

This is a very detailed map showing home and business locations, with the owners’ names. This is the only such detailed map in the 1887  state atlas, a fact which underlines how popular the island was at the time.

There are three other “home-ownership maps” in this collection.



1776 Des Barres

Next a look at one of the oldest maps – the colonial “Des Barres” map. This map comes from an atlas of coastal charts made by J.F.W. Des Barres, a British naval officer.

Close examination of the map shows a few buildings in several settlements (un-named) on the island, and evidence of land-clearing.

The large island on the lower left is Swan’s island, called  “Burnt Coal Island”   in 1776.



1860 – from the Map of Hancock County- HF Walling



The oldest complete road map of the island may be the 1860 Map of Hancock County – the large wall map which shows roads and homeowners throughout the county.

This excerpt from the county map shows the whole island divided into 3 towns. The northernmost, Eden, is now called Bar Harbor.

Cadillac Mountain is seen on the east side of Eden, next to Eagle Lake, but it’s not Cadillac in 1860, it’s humbly called Green Mountain.



MtDesert_1872_Dodge_webThe very fact that an attractive map of the island was privatey published in 1872 tells us that tourists were visiting then – or at the very least were  interested in this place.

Very few New England towns were ever mapped like this.

The publisher, E.H. Dodge of  Tremont was also the author of an 1871 book on Mount Desert Island.



1875 USCGS (Not Nautical)

Our next map doesn’t have the charm of the previous map but it is a valuable historical document and deserves careful study.

This map was made by the US Coast Survey , the federal government’s premier map-making agency.  Oddly, there are no nautical features except the shoreline.

The Coast Survey’s mission was to make maps ( “charts” to mariners) as an aide to navigation.  Who knows what strings were pulled to get this land map issued, but thanks are due to whoever did it..

It is the most detailed map made to date. It’s dark shades are due to the tight contour lines depicting the mountains. Roads are shown all over the island, as are building locations and place names. In the villages we even see the outlines of farm fields.

On the east coast south of Bar Harbor is “Thunder Cave” – the famous rocky portal which roars with the waves at high tide.. Today’s park road has a turnout and a nice display describing this feature. This is the oldest map to label the cave.

On this map we can see the old road to the top of Cadillac Mountain (here called Green Mountain), though it is very hard to see on this image.



1882 Nautical Chart by USCGS

Seven years later the Coast Survey published its detailed nautical chart of Mount Desert Island.

This map has most of the information found on the 1875 but also the more important (for sailors) nautical features such as soundings (water depths) and more shoreline details.

This image is a bit lighter and this easier to read than the 1875 map, but it’s a bit fuzzy because its a low-resolution file.

MtDesert_1884_Colby_web In 1884 the Colby-Stuart mapping company produced their first home-owner map of the island.

This appeared in an atlas, but may also have been published separately, as a map like this would have had a lot of appeal to the many 100s of people whose names appear hereon.

Compare this map to the 1860 map and 1887 maps above, and to the 1887 wall map following next.

MtDesert_1887_Colby_WallMap_webArguably the best of the 19th century historic maps of the island is this large wall map published by Colby and Stuart, the same outfit that issued two other MDI maps with homeowner names.

It is 4 1/2 feet wide and 5 feet high – big enough to include many more facts and details than a typical small wall map.
It has homeowner and business names throughout and, most unusual for such a map, it shows property outlines.

Gathering and mapping property boundaries is a lot of work – one wonders why Colby and Stuart went to this effort. Today we could just go to our town offices to see a “tax map”, but surely no such documents existed in Eden, Mount Desert and Tremont in the 1880s.

Of special note on this 1887 map is the railroad leading from Eagle lake to the top of Green Mountain (Cadillac Mountain today).  For a few years – less than a  decade – people could get to the top of the iconic mountain via a cog railway that went straight up from the lake. A steamboat got people to the railroad from the Bar Harbor Road at the north end of the lake.


1890 Maine Coast Map excerpt

The next map – a excerpt from an 1890 Maine Coast map – illustrates the visitation to the Island.

Here we see the steamboat and ferry routes which brought visitors to Mount Desert Island in the late 19th century.

Notice that Bar Harbor was the center of the action then, just as now, and that Southwest Harbor was also an active place.

circa 1890 RR advertising map

No fewer than six steamer and ferry routes lead to Bar Harbor on this map. Today most visitors approach the island by road from the Trenton on the mainland on a bridge that is barely noticeable on this map


circa 1890 Advertising Map for Railroad

The Eastern Railroad Company, which ran regular trains from Boston to Portland, issued this circa 1890 map to advertise their access to Mount Desert Island.

Passengers would get on a boat in Portland and cruise to Southwest Harbor and then onto Bar Harbor.
This was not the only railroad route to the island. The competing Maine Central Railroad had a shoreline route which took people to Sorrento, a short 6-mile ferry ride to Bar Harbor from the north. — Not shown on this map!

The base map used was probably the USCGS nautical chart of 1882.


1893 Rand

The 1893 “Rand” map deserves special attention. This privately made map is very attractive, and filled with information.

Edward Rand was a botanist at Harvard, part of a group of explorers who were interested in the island’s natural features. Rand prepared this map to accompany the “Flora of Mt. Desert Island” book (1894).

Rand used the 1882 USCGS (Coast Survey) map as the base map. he added many local place names.

Contour lines are re-drawn but as lighter colored lines.

The overall appearance is similar to that of the USGS topographical map of the island – but that did not appear until 1904.



1904 USGS

The US Geological Survey – the government’s land-mapping agency – issued the first topographical maps of the island in 1904.

Our image is a composite made from the 3 quadrangle maps: Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor and Swans Island.

The Geological Survey maps differ from the Coast Survey maps (see 1875 and 1882) in that they focus on land features versus shoreline/water features.

The USGS used  the earlier USCGS (Coast and Geodetic Survey, aka “Coast Survey”) maps to make the maps.



1911 Sherman

A Bar Harbor business man published this next map in 1911.

W.H. Sherman was a printer and also the publisher of at least two guide books to Bar Harbor and surroundings.

The “Sherman map” was no doubt aimed at visitors as it shows trails/carriage roads throughout the island in addition to the driving roads.It is filled with local placenames not found on other maps such as “Great Clearing” and “the Black Woods”.

One notable feature is the outlines of the “Public Reservation” on the lands that would soon become the national park. Shading denotes the limits of the privately established land trust around Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond.

Sherman appears to have used the 1893 Rand map as his base map, as the map’s edges are almost identical to Rand’s map.


1911 Path Map Eastern Part

There’s another 1911 map in this collection – a “Path Map” of just the eastern part of the island.

What most of us call trails are “paths” on Mount Desert Island, a usage dating back to the late 1800s.  There are dozens of off-road paths shown on this very attractive map – courtesy of Edward Rand (see 1893 map) and others.

The dark green areas are the lands that will soon become part of the National park system. In 1911 this is a privately established land trust.



1916 National Monument – Sieur de Monts

This is the first Acadia National park map – published by the US Interior Department in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson created the National Monument – then called “Sieur de Monts”.

Wilson acted in July 2016, just 100 years ago at this writing (August 2016).

The Monument lands cover Cadillac Mountain (still called Green Mountain here) and a large area around Jordan Pond…”…..embracing the island summit and about 5000 acres….



1916 editions of 1904 USGS maps (composite map)

The USGS “Mount Desert” and “Bar Harbor” maps, 1904 originals, were re-issued with the National Monument boundary lines in 1916.

The boundaries are in red and a bit hard to discern here.

This is a composite map made from three USGS maps, the two listed above and Swan’s Island (lower left).

The Swan’s Island “quad” (as these maps are called colloquially) was not edited in 1916 as no park lands were in that area.



1917 Bates-Rand-Jacques

Another beautiful map of the island by the the Bates, Rand and Jacques team appeared in 1917.

Compare this to the 1893 map authored by Edward Rand.



1922 USGS Topo – Cadillac Mountain Named

The USGS issued a single map of the whole island in 1922, a variant from its normal pattern of issuing separate quadrangle maps.

This may have been the official complete map of Acadia at the time , as we have not found any other detailed park maps in this period.

On this map we see that the park has been renamed Lafayette National Park, and that Cadillac Mountain has been given it’s modern name. So long Green Mountain.

The new road to the top of the mountain is shown, the road we use now, but it does not go all the way to the top.  This is odd, because the old road from the north did reach the summit.

This is the 1928 printing.



1931 Acadia  National Park

This 1931 map is the first titled Acadia National Park.

Like the 1922 map, this is a special USGS publication. Notably, we now have an expanded park with a large part of the Schoodic Peninsula included.

I suspect this was available for sale at the “Visitor Center” of the 1930s.

The road to the top of the mountain is still shown short of the top.


1935 USCGS detailed topo

The USCGS (not USGS – it can be confusing) issued this “Acadia National Park and Vicinity” map of the island in 1935.

This is probably more detailed than the 1931 park map, but I’ve not taken the time to compare it yet.
It does show the current road to the top of Cadillac Mountain.

This is the 2nd wide format USGS map of the Park – see slso the 1931 original. Acadia’s boundaries have been expanded and can be clearly seen here.


1942 USGS Wide Format


Swanton Vermont Dam – 2016 Controversy

In July 2016 Vermont’s media was abuzz with talk of plans to remove a very old dam in the village of Swanton, up near the Canadian border.
Swanton_Dam_VPR2012 The state – through its Fish & Wildlife department – wants to remove the dam so that fish can easily use the Missisquoi River upstream. The river has been dammed since the 1790s, when grist mills and saw mills were built to improve the lives of settlers.  Here are some old maps showing the dam site. (At the bottom of this page are links to some news stories)

The 1871 “Beers” map shows the dam and the bustle of activity which flowed from the water power. Note the Saw Mill, Grist Mill, Tannery and several other factories just upstream.  Hundreds of people earned their living working here 150 years ago.

Fourteen years earlier the 1857 county wall map showed the site just as busy, but with different shops.  or is the Stone Mill on the north side of the river in 1857 the same business as the Marble Shop in 1871?  Probably. The 1857 map doesn’t show the dam, but it was there.


The 1796 state map (made by James Whitelaw) shows two mills on the river, and a single road leading to the village from the south. The 1821 version of this map (below) shows several mills, and 4 roads leading to and from Swanton village.SwantonFalls_1821_Whitelaw===========================================================

For a “bigger area” view this 1860 map (from the Walling state map) reveals that Swanton Falls is the biggest village on the Missisquoi near Lake Champlain (Missisquoi Bay), and that the railroad passed through on its way north to Canada.
Our last map, is a modern USGS topo map

News story Links:

2016  Channel 5 TV Story July 2016

2009  TV Story

2016 VPR Text & audio
2016  VTDigger  Story   July 20




Offensive name on Nautical Chart – Negro Heads

An article in Saturday’s New York Times (Mar 15, 2016) described efforts to rename a small island near New Haven Connecticut. The island, actually more of a  “rock pile”, has long been known as Negro Heads, and bears that name on the official nautical charts for Long Island Sound.
NegroHead_80000_LISound_East_2014_12354-05-2012_closestThe feature is a local landmark off the town of Branford, and has a warning buoy according to the Times story.

Here are closeup views of Branford from a 2014 nautical chart.

The rocks have been marked by buoys since at least 1846, but the name changed.  See below.


The newspaper article noted that the rock pile used to have a more offensive name, and that it was changed to the present name “between the 1830s and 1880s”.
That covers a large date range, so I looked through my collection of Coast Survey charts to see if I could find the older name and get a closer date for the name change. I found the old name (Nigger Heads) in 1846 and the new name in 1855. I was surprised to find the change made so early – before the Civil War.

The oldest 80,000 scale chart for the New Haven area is the 1846 chart which covers Long Island Sound  from New Haven east to the Connecticut River.  A closeup view shows that the rocks were called “Nigger Heads” at that time.NegroHead_PlumIsland_StratfordShoal_1846_115-00-close
On  the 1855 map we see the name change to the current “Negro Heads”.

Before I found the evidence, I was imaging that the new name might have appeared much later in the century during the Reconstruction period.  We don’ t know who made the change, or whether it was the subject of much discussion at the time. The map’s title tells us that it was published by the US Coast Survey.

The “Sailing Directions” on each chart had the same usage.


While the official charts showed the new name from 1855 to the present, common usage may not have changed. note this 1903 article found online about a sailing trip along the shoreline:


The two maps (and many others) referenced are  on my web site   www.old-maps.com.
(Low-res images for free viewing)

1846 Map
1855 Map

Dave Allen   March 2016    www.old-maps.com




Michigan County Wall Maps – Feb 2016

We have now (2016) added  35 Michigan 19th century county wall maps to our growing “Old Maps” collection. These maps are from the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division. We have edited most of them to improve their appearance and have posted them onto our ETSY shop (Oldmap) and at the old-maps.com web site. Most of the maps are the large 3-5′ wide maps with homeowner names throughout. More than half of them were made in the 1850s and 1860s,  the boom period of county map making.  The rest are from the 1870s and later.


The maps cover most of southern Michigan in a largely contiguous area between Lake Michigan and the Detroit area  A few of the later (and less detailed maps -few homeowner names) were made of more rural northern areas, there is one from the Upper Peninsula. Michigan_CountyMapsWeHave-web

To see low-res copies or buy a map :  Michigan County Maps on old-maps.com

The 1861 Map of Kalamazoo County is a nice example of the Philadelphia – made maps. It shows the 16 towns and all the roads and farmlots with the owner’s names. Town boundaries are highlighted in color. Outside of the map proper there are several  inset maps including a large one of Kalamazoo City.

Kalamazoo_1861_web Kalamazoo_1861_clipTownKalamazoo_1861_clipTownClose  Kalamazoo_1861_clipVillage

The village and city inset maps don’t have all the landowner names like the rural areas of the county – there just wasn’t enough space to write all the names in the densely populated areas. The insets usually show public buildings and often show road names (the rural roads probably were not named in the 1860s – few county wall maps show road names in the country.)


The Kalamazoo County map has a long “List of County Subscribers” , also called a Business Directory. These people signed up to buy the map before it was published. Each of them probably paid a sum of about 5 dollars to get a copy of this magnificent map – and have their name engraved on it for posterity.  Kalamazoo_1861_clip_Subscribersl

In the margins of the large wall map are 18 pictorial engravings of farms, businesses and prominent buildings. These images were added to the map for an additional fee – probably more than the cost of a map. Kalamazoo_1861_clip_PicChappell

It is interesting to note that some of the Michigan county maps made at about the same time have only a few such views. Branch County (1858) for example, only has 6 views, and one is of a public building. Only one farm is shown, compared to the several farms drawn onto the Kalamazoo County map. This difference in the maps may reflect a difference in the wealth of the two counties.

As noted, we have edited many of the maps. Typically we have lessened large gaps in the scans (the Library of Congress typically stores and scans a county map in 4 separate sheets so the scans have gaps). We also remove other flaws such as water stains and other blemishes. In some cases there are holes in the maps with missing information. If the holes are unsightly (very bright, for example), we fill in the area with a color close to the background hue. If the holes are in the map borders we “repair” them in Photoshop. Occasionally we find a large defect which we repair by “splicing” in a section from another scan of the old map. The Lenawee County 1857 map original had a large hole in the middle of the map which left several dozen names etc missing.  We repaired that void with a section from a 2nd copy of the same map – and carefully color-matched the splice so it is not noticeable. Below are  BEFORE and AFTER pictures.

BEFORE editing

AFTER editing (above) –  the whole map is below


For this map – and with several others – we “square” the image so that it looks better when framed. The original Lenawee map needed adjustments to both the right edge and the bottom to make the map more square. By doing this we have altered the funky original (which was cock-eyed), but we think it makes the map more pleasing to our customers.