Illustrated panoramic maps exist in a space and time before land surveying and GIS data collection became synonymous with mapmaking. A highly impressionistic production, the maps were rarely created to scientific scale and often embellished in regional characteristics. Yet still the finished maps held a sense of pride and purpose in communities across America. 

Posted in public and other common spaces, illustrated panoramic maps gave residents and visitors of a town a sense of place and were also used to drive tourism, migration and real estate deals. From high vantage points, and sometimes from the inside of hot air balloons, artists formulated scenes of what a city was and could be under the right conditions. Today, thanks to geospatial mapping technology, geospatial analysts do the same but on a deeper and much grandeur scale and in real-time.

The U.S. Library of Congress houses more than 1,500 illustrated panoramic maps in its online archives. Although the maps are nowhere near as detailed as the maps we have today, they are still a good reference point for how far we’ve come and inspiration for how far the mapmaking profession can go.   

View more illustrated panoramic maps at