In 1970 the National Atlas of the United States of America was published. The National Atlas was designed to be of practical use to decision makers in government and business, and for planners and research scholars, as well as, others needing to visualize county-wide distributional patterns and relationships between environmental phenomena and human activities. The National Atlas represents the principal characteristics of the county, including its physical features, historical evolution, economic activities, socio-cultural conditions, administrative subdivisions, and place in world affairs, in 1970.
Production of a National Atlas of the United States of America had been advocated by various Federal agencies, professional organizations and commercial firms, but the magnitude of the task and the scope of research required were deterring factors. Late in 1954, the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council established a Committee on the National Atlas of the United States, with representatives from several Federal mapmaking agencies. The Committees primary responsibilities were to organization of all Federal agencies that would be involved, and to ensure a uniformity of quality in cartography. This proved to be a nearly impossible task, consequently in 1961 the Committee declared it’s own termination. In doing so it recommended that the atlas be completed by one Federal agency, preferably the Geological Survey in the U.S. Department of the Interior. In March of 1961, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior accepted the challenge.
Congress appropriated funds to begin work on the National Atlas in 1963, and the Library of Congress provided, on reimbursable loan, the Chief of the Geography and Map Division, Dr. Arch C. Gerlach, to serve as Editor. Liaison officers to the National Atlas Project were appointed by 84 agencies and bureaus, base maps were prepared at four scales, and the fundamental design principles and specifications were formulated in collaboration with an advisory group of eminent cartographers and geographers.
The first part of the National Atlas is devoted to general reference maps which contain most of the 41,000 place names recorded in the index. These maps were included in the National Atlas for the convenience of readers who desire basic locational information. In the thematic section of the National Atlas, subdivisions deal in sequence with the physical, historical, economic, and socio-cultural characteristics of the country. These maps help to represent the relationships between man and environment, and constitute scientific bases for analyzing the economic development of the country in 1970. This was the last paper atlas of this magnitude to be produced by the Federal government.
In 1997, work began on a new and innovative National Atlas. This new edition includes both electronic and paper map products and it exploits information presentation, access, and
delivery technologies that didn't exist in 1970. The new National Atlas is intended to provide a comprehensive, map-like view into the enormous wealth of data collected by the Federal government. The atlas delivers authoritative views on scientific, societal, and historical information. The Atlas includes easy-to use online interactive maps. It provides tools to display, manipulate, and query National Atlas data so that users can produce their own analysis. The National Atlas provides a showcase for the geospatial data collected by Federal agencies.
To view the new National Map Small-Scale Collection.
The National Atlas of the U. S. A., United States Dept. of the Interior Geological Survey, 1970