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[Detail] Bird's eye view of Anniston, Ala. 1888.

2) Westward Expansion

Eureka, Humboldt County, California. Copyright by A.C. Noe & G.R. Georgeson. 1902

Eureka, California, Britton & Rey, Photo-Lithographers, 1902.

The promise of new lands and economic opportunities (often depicted in panoramic maps) inspired many people to head west in the nineteenth century. By the mid-1800s, pioneers were crossing the plains and the Rockies to follow dreams of gold, land, or other business opportunities. In the wake of this westward expansion, towns and cities grew rapidly in number and size. Panoramic maps were a boon to real estate agents looking to sell land in and around these burgeoning urban centers. The maps allowed the potential buyer to ascertain potential business opportunities in the existing infrastructure, the gaps in development, and the sites where vacant land was available for development. Indeed, these maps were used to attract commerce and to spur real estate sales as often as to foster civic pride.

Read stories of those who made the long trek west in the collection "California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900. Then search on the names of towns mentioned in these narratives in Panoramic Maps, 1847-1929. Or, browse the collection's Geographic Location Index to find maps from a particular time period or from a given state.

Grand Haven, Michigan A. Ruger, Cartographer, 1868

Grand Haven, Michigan, A. Ruger, Cartographer, 1868.

An 1868 map of Grand Haven, Michigan evinces another aspect of westward expansion. The cartographer depicts a small camp of Indians that has been marginalized just outside of that busy port city, hinting at the conflicts that occurred when millions of settlers moved into Native American homelands. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory in 1874 brought immigrants, land speculators, and gold seekers to this sacred land of the Sioux. The town of Aberdeen was located in the Dakota Territory in 1883. It was laid out under the direction of Charles Prior, an agent for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Look closely at this bird's eye view of Aberdeen and consider the following questions:

  • What does the map of Aberdeen suggest about the role of the railroad in this town? What does the fact that the town was laid out by a railroad agent suggest? Who published this map and what does this suggest about the town?
  • What does the map of Grand Haven suggest about the relationship between Native Americans and westward expansion? Why might a cartographer have included this visual reference to Native Americans in his map? What does this reference suggest about the town depicted?
  • How did Native Americans respond to the development of towns such as Aberdeen?
  • What interaction, if any, existed between towns such as Aberdeen and Native American reservations?

Along with numerous treaties, the U.S. government established military installations and reservations to keep Native Americans from uniting to drive away settlers in the prairie states as well as on the western frontier. A few panoramic maps depict these nineteenth-century military encampments. See, for example, a bird's eye view of Fort Collins, Colorado in the 1860s. This fort was established in 1864 and wagon trains, which may be seen in the map, departed from there to travel the Cherokee Trail. The collection also includes an 1891 view of Fort Reno, Oklahoma Territory. It was not until the battle of Wounded Knee in 1890 that the U.S. military ended Native American resistance on the western frontier.