Friday Photo – Painstaking Detail

People in the 1890’s must have had a lot of time on their hands, going up in hot air balloons and drawing entire cities building by building.


Check out the full resolution here and additional maps archived at the Library of Congress. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

8 Responses to Friday Photo – Painstaking Detail

  1. Martha March 14, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    Further proof that streets are for people (and horses).

  2. Kyle Rosenberg March 14, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    I spent a long time a few months ago trying to get rid of the black line in the middle of this image so I could print and frame it. I was unsuccessful, but found that someone had already done so! (23 MB)

  3. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson March 14, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Ooh, bridges I didn’t know we used to have. That would be an interesting column, the important bridges we no longer have in the metro.

  4. Alex March 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    The idea was to maximize the recognizable building faces and hence the number of occupants who’d wish to buy a bird’s-eye featuring their building. I believe it was a product of imagination, and they rarely if ever actually went up in a balloon.

  5. Joe Scott
    Joe Scott March 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    The hot air balloon comment was a somewhat tongue in cheek reference to the sense of whimsy, real or imagined, that I ascribe to the 1890’s. But I do think the map gives a decent, if not precise picture of how the city would have looked at this time.

    • Alex March 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

      I think’s official editorial policy is that the tongue should remain centered within the mouth, not in the cheek, unless briefly to retrieve any glomps of food that get stuck in a molar. Bill can you confirm?

  6. Matt Brillhart March 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Huh. That weird part where 1st Ave N becomes Hawthorne Ave, and is strangely/conflictingly labeled as 9th St N, is actually historic.

    It seems that later changes made 1st/Hawthorne into a continuous street rather that a disjointed intersection, but for some (terrible) reason, the 9th St N signage persists on that block:

    Any particular reason why we haven’t just renamed the whole damn thing 1st Ave N?

  7. Donald Empson March 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    As someone who has reprinted some of these Bird’s Eye View or Panaromic maps, I can assure you they were not done from a balloon. Instead an artist would walk the streets and make the drawings of the buildings to the proper scale for the map. Then the map would be publicly displayed and corrections requested. At the same display, an agent would be soliciting subscriptions for the final lithograph of the map. They were very popular from about 1850-1900, and offer a view of the city at that time which can not be found elsewhere. In many respects they are even better than today’s aerial views.

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