Historical Maps at Your Fingertips

Release Date:

Earlier this month, the USGS launched “TopoView 2.1”, an enhancement to the current popular TopoView mapping service that lets users discover, interact, and download historical USGS topographic maps scans.

TopoView on a smartphone
TopoView can now be accessed through various portable devices like smartphones and tablets.(Public domain.)

TopoView 2.1 is a modern web application built on an open source mapping platform that is free of charge. The highly interactive service provides tools and procedures that allow users to easily find historic map scans from USGS’s Historical Topographic Map Collection and even compare those with modern day maps.

The new version is full of improvements and advancements based on hundreds of user comments and suggestions. Upgraded features include:

  • new user interface that’s faster and  easier to use,
  • access and download maps from a variety of search terms
  • intuitive tools to compare historical maps with maps of the present.
  • ability to preview maps within the interface
  • filters and searches that work seamlessly with the map records table to get you the info you want with just a few clicks.

To further assist users with these features, the TopoView team has released a “how to” video to walk through the download and comparison process.

TopoView highlights one of the USGS's most important and useful products, the topographic map. In 1879, the USGS began to map the Nation's topography. This mapping was done at different levels of detail, in order to support various land use and other purposes. As the years passed, the USGS produced new map versions of each area.

The most current maps are available from The National Map and US Topo quadrangles. TopoView shows the many and varied older maps of each area, and so is useful for historical purposes—for example, the names of some natural and cultural features have changed over time, and the 'old' names can be found on these historical topographic maps. 

TopoView was created by the National Geologic Map Database project, in support of topographic mapping program managed by the National Geospatial Program.  Geologic mapping and topographic mapping at the USGS have a long tradition together.

​Comparing modern-day Philadelphia to the historical map of the area in 1891 gif
​Comparing modern-day Philadelphia to the historical map of the area in 1891. TopoView lets users easily visualize changes to areas that were mapped by the USGS throughout history.(Public domain.)