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Historical Topographic Maps - Preserving the Past

In 2009, USGS began the release of a new generation of topographic maps (US Topo) in electronic form, and in 2011, complemented them with the release of high-resolution scans of more than 178,000 historical topographic maps of the United States. The topographic map remains an indispensable tool for everyday use in government, science, industry, land management planning, and recreation.

Historic maps are snapshots of the nation's physical and cultural features at a particular time. Maps of the same area can show how an area looked before development and provide a detailed view of changes over time. Historical maps are often useful to scientists, historians, environmentalists, genealogists and others researching a particular geographic location or area.

The goal of The National Map’s Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC) is to provide a digital repository of USGS 1:250,000 scale and larger maps printed between 1884, the inception of the topographic mapping program, and 2006. The National Geospatial Program (NGP) is accurately cataloging and creating metadata to accompany high-resolution, geo-referenced digital files representing the legacy lithographic maps. These maps are either no longer available for distribution in print or are being replaced by the new generation of US Topo maps.

HTMC maps are published in Portable Document Format (PDF) with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF®), patented by TerraGo Technologies. They are available for download free of charge from these applications (see FAQs):

  • The National Map Download Client is our primary application for finding and downloading maps and other data products of the USGS National Geospatial Program.
  • TopoView provides the best visual overview of the HTMC. It serves maps in GeoTIFF, JPG, and KMZ versions of the HTMC maps, in addition to the product standard GeoPDF.
  • The USGS Store website sells printed maps, and USGS maps and publications that are not included in either the US Topo or HTMC series.

For tutorial information on download and product click here.

The TerraGo Toolbar is available for free download for use with GeoPDF® maps.

Browse Image of 1890 Historical Topographic Map
Browse Image of 1890 historical topographic map for the Newburyport quadrangle, a digital map in the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection


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