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

Historical thinking requires analysis and Panoramic Maps, 1847-1929, can be used to develop this important skill. A researcher must dig deeply to find both traditional and alternative historical narratives, be willing to study these sources closely, and to synthesize a wide range of information. An historian must be able to comprehend content, as well as to interconnect information from a variety of sources through chronological thinking, the formulation of good questions, analysis and interpretation of data, and the ability to identify what is relevant. The following activity ideas provide the starting points to practice these skills.

Chronological Thinking

Historical thinking requires analysis and Panoramic Maps, 1847-1929, can be used to develop this important skill. A researcher must dig deeply to find both traditional and alternative historical narratives, be willing to study these sources closely, and to synthesize a wide range of information. An historian must be able to comprehend content, as well as to interconnect information from a variety of sources through chronological thinking, the formulation of good questions, analysis and interpretation of data, and the ability to identify what is relevant. The following activity ideas provide the starting points to practice these skills.

Chronological Thinking

It is possible to use material from Panoramic Maps, 1847-1929, to develop chronological thinking skills. Search for two or more maps of the same city at different time periods and compare them, with an eye toward understanding the rapid growth of cities and the changes in urban life during the era of industrialization. Then compile a list of changes as shown by the maps.

Chicago from Schiller Street north side to 12th Street south side,br />1868 (detail)

Chicago (detail), A. Ruger, Mapmaker, 1868.

The city of Chicago, c. 1892 (detail)

Chicago (detail), Currier & Ives, Printer, 1892.

Chicago, central business section, c. 1916 (detail)

Chicago (detail), Arno B.Reincke, Mapmaker, 1916.

Panoramic maps of Chicago, when compared across three different time periods, clearly demonstrate the tenor of urban development in the era of industrialization. Use the mouth of the Chicago River as a reference point to answer questions such as:

  • Between 1868 and 1916, how did harbor buildings and shipping traffic change at the mouth of the Chicago River?
  • How did the presence of railroads in Chicago change over time?
  • Can you locate venues of recreation in all three maps: baseball diamonds, parks, beaches, promenades?
The City of Chicago, showing the burnt district.

Chicago, Showing the Burnt District Currier & Ives, Printer, 1874.

Bird's-eye-view of Chicago as it was before the great fire. Drawn by Theodore R. Davis.

Chicago As It Was before the Great Fire, Theodore R. Davis, Mapmaker, 1871.

On October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire swept across about 1,900 acres in the center of the city, destroying approximately 2,200 stores, 160 manufacturing sites, and the homes of nearly 100,000 people – an estimated 47 percent of the property owned in the city. How did this fire affect the growth of Chicago? Search American Memory on the term fire AND 1871 to research the answer. You will find, for example, The Lakeside Memorial of the Burning of Chicago in the Books section of The Nineteenth Century in Print. Is the information from such sources represented in the panoramic maps?

  • How did the growth of Chicago after the fire affect the city's lake front?
  • How did the architecture of downtown Chicago change after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871? Search American Memory on the terms Louis Sullivan and Daniel H. Burnham to learn more.
  • Does the 1874 map accurately reflect that portion of Chicago that remained destroyed three years after the fire?

Some towns have comprehensive plans for their future development. Does your hometown have one? If so, get a copy and envision what your city will look like in twenty, fifty, or one hundred years. If there is no town plan, or you wish to develop a better plan, work in a group to create one. You might want to consider topics such as city planning, the importance of demographics to planning, commercial and residential zoning, the importance of both efficiency and beauty to a healthy city, gaining political approval of a plan, and implementing change.