UNH DIMOND LIBRARY
Documents Department & Data Center
Historic USGS Maps of New England
& New York
About the Collection
The United States Geological Survey began its topographic atlas of the United States in 1882. The University of New Hampshire's Library's Government Information Department holds a working collection of over 55,000 paper USGS maps. This online collection of over 1500 USGS topographic maps includes complete geographical coverage of New England and New York from the 1890s to 1950s.
Current USGS topographic maps are readily available in both paper form from USGS directly, on CD-ROM, and on the internet. They are also often available in the larger public libraries. The historic maps are not readily available, which is why this web site was created.
U.S. Geological Survey maps are published in increments of longitude and latitude.
An individual 15 Minute Series map covers a rectangular area of 15 minutes. For
example, the Concord quadrangle has a southern boundary of 43 degrees 0 minutes
and a northern boundary of 43 degrees 15 minutes. This can be confusing since
most other maps focus on a particular geographic feature, such as a city, state,
or metropolitan area. For example, see the Manchester, New Hampshire quadrangle
map. Manchester is located in the northwest corner of the map, and while most
of the city is located on one map, there are parts on three other adjacent maps.
The center of Manchester is just south of 43 degrees north and just west of
71 degrees 30 minutes east.
7.5 Minute Series Maps, Scale 1:31680
With the exception of a few areas of Vermont, all the 7.5 minute series maps in the collection are of southern New England. Maps in this series were first published in the late 1930s and had a scale of 1:31680 until the mid 1950s. Since the 1950s, the maps have been published in scales of 1:24000 and 1:25000. This series of maps was not published for Northern New England until the 1960s and have not been scanned as a part of this collection. This collection is complete in its geographic coverage of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Some of the earlier maps in this series covering the northern border of Massachusetts cover areas in Vermont and New Hampshire that were not surveyed. For these maps the
area north of the Massachusetts border is not covered and appears as all white.
15 Minute Series Maps, Scale 1:62500
Geographic coverage of New England is complete in the 15 minute series although the range of dates is much more restricted in southern New England and in parts of Maine. This series includes the first maps published by the USGS of New England. There was complete geographic coverage of southern New England by about 1900. Vermont and New Hampshire have areas where the oldest maps date from the 1920s and there are areas in Maine that were mapped much later. The USGS stopped publishing new 15 minute series maps of southern New England in about 1920 so we have no newer maps in this series for Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island unless they overlap the border with New Hampshire or Vermont. In some cases it is clear that the areas south of the Massachusetts border were not revised. The Groton 1935 quadrangle stands out in this respect as a rail line was built after the original edition was surveyed. The rail line exists on the map in New Hampshire but not south of the border even though it continued on south to Ayer, Massachusetts.
30 Minute Series Maps, Scale 1:125000
Very few of these maps appear to exist. We have six covering parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts. They were created from the surveys for the 15 minute series maps that were done before 1900.
Each quadrangle is named by the USGS. The names generally come from a significant geographic feature within the quadrangle. In the southern part of New Hampshire, this is almost always a town or a city. For maps covering the White Mountains, the names are mountains or other geologic features such as Crawford Notch. This may cause confusion as quadrangle names are often unexpected. For example, in the 15 Minute Series there is no quadrangle called Nashua. The city of Nashua occupies parts of four quadrangles, including one named Groton, a town in Massachusetts. Not only are the names often unexpected, they are not necessarily unique. The names are only unique within state and series. For example there are Salem, Massachusetts quadrangles in both the 7.5 minute and 15 minute series. Both Vermont and Massachusetts have a Barre quadrangle in the 15 minute series.
Edition, Survey, and Revision Dates
Nearly all of the maps have an "edition" date and one or more survey and revision dates. The survey and revision dates are listed for each map when available, along with the edition date. For more recent maps the type of survey (aerial photographs, etc.) is also listed. The survey and revision dates can typically be found in the lower left corner of the maps and are the best gauge of the age of the content of the map but not the map itself.
Edition dates (in the lower right hand corner) can be confusing because the USGS has changed how these are assigned over time. For the earliest maps in the 1890s new edition dates were assigned nearly every time the map was reprinted. We have not collected each edition when this is the case and have relied on the survey dates to distinguish between maps. Later this date was kept for reprintings and the date was roughly the year the map was first published. Some list a "reprinted" date as well. As best we can tell sometime in 1951 the policy for edition dates was changed and the date of the last survey has been used. This can lead to some confusion as to whether the content of one map is different from another. For example, in the collection, we have Fryeburg, Maine 15 minute series quadrangles with edition dates of 1909 and 1911. On the 1909 map there is a small line with the date 1964. The two maps are really the same with the earlier one actually being a reprint made much later.
The Images and Access to Them
The image map showing the state of New
Hampshire includes a grid marked off in 15 minute increments. Each rectangle links to a web page that lists the available images for this quadrangle. An image map exists for each New England state. In addition, there are alphabetic listings by quadrangle name and by town name for each state. For any particular date, there will most often be four images because the maps were scanned as four sections. Each image is typically 1.5 megabytes, so download times are likely to be slow. The size was chosen to maintain an acceptable level of detail.
The map images scanned from our own collection were supplemented from the collections of a number of different libraries and a bookstore. We gratefully acknowledge their generous contributions.
The map images were collected by taking a laptop computer and scanner to each library. The images are presented in this collection in JPEG format so that they may be easily viewed or downloaded. The original (and much larger) TIFF images are available upon request.
- Amherst Public Library, Amherst, New Hampshire
- Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
- Dover Public Library, Dover, New Hampshire
- Guy H. Burnham Map and Aerial Photography Library, Clark University
- Harvard Map Collection, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Keene Public Library, Keene, New Hampshire
- Mori Books, Amherst Book Center, Amherst, New Hampshire
- Nashua Public Library, Nashua, New Hampshire
- New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, New Hampshire
- New Hampshire State Library, Concord, New Hampshire
- Peterborough Town Library, Peterborough, New Hampshire
- Wadleigh Memorial Library, Milford, New Hampshire
Project information, Digitizing the Historic USGS Maps of New England, is available online from Proceedings of the 9th Annual Federal Depository Library Conference.
Why the Collection Was Started
This collection of map images was started by Christopher Marshall
of Amherst, New Hampshire. Chris is an avid map enthusiast with an interest in railroads, and this map collection started as an effort to locate the abandoned railroad right of ways in New Hampshire. Historic USGS maps are not readily available. Many libraries have some, but no New Hampshire library has a complete collection. Chris generously gave copies of his images to be used in the construction of this site, and gave even more generously his time and programming expertise.
Meredith Ricker of the University of NH Government Information Department collaborated with Chris to turn this collection of images into The Historic USGS Maps of New England
& New York archive.