“The Ideal Historical Atlas”

Image created by Nathaniel Ayers

Image created by Nathaniel Ayers

As we get closer to releasing the first four maps of American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History, I look back on Charles O. Paullin’s 1932 Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States.  My first year at the DSL was spent collecting, formatting, organizing, and building the database for the online version of the Atlas. The Atlas contains nearly 700 unique and beautiful maps, ranging from topics such as the number of Cattle, Explorations, and Rates of Travel. I have always been awed by the craftsmanship and effectiveness of these maps which were published over eighty years ago.  Recently there has been a lot of interest in “retro” maps and recreating them with new data. The Paullin Atlas is a little different in this regard, in that we added underlying data and implemented “A Shiny New Interface for a Classic Atlas” according to National Geographic. Wright thought the maps in the atlas were limited and could be more effective if visualized as a “collection of motion-picture maps.” This is what we tried to accomplish along with being respectful of the original plates in the Atlas. Still to this day Charles O. Paullin’s Atlas is considered one of the most impressive atlases of American History. With the help of our friends at Stamen Design, I look forward to sharing American Panorama with everyone and hope to push the envelope like Wright and Paullin did when trying to create “the ideal historical atlas.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: