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These Interactive Maps Compare 19th Century American Cities to Today

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As mind-blowing as science is these days, it's probably safe to say that we're not going to invent a time machine within the next century. Through the magic of code, though, there is an entertaining alternative in the world of interactive maps. Obviously, The Smithsonian is on it.


The magazine recently dipped into David Rumsey's collection of over 150,000 maps to find some of the best representations of American cities over the past couple hundred years. With some simple programming, they were able to overlay images of vintage maps of some major cities onto satellite images from today. The results are fascinating.

New York City, 1836 to Present Day

This map of Gotham comes from just a couple decades before the Gangs of New York-era. Can you find the Five Points?


Washington DC, 1851 vs. Present Day

Remember when the White House was just called "the President's House" and the site of the Lincoln Memorial was underground? Neither do I.

Denver, 1879 vs. Present Day

When you take a step back and think about it Denver could've been a real shit show, what with all the competing parties—from bankers and mining companies—involved. Somehow, though, they managed to pull it off.


Los Angeles, 1880 vs. Present Day

Many people don't realize how quickly Los Angeles rose out of the desert to become America's second largest city. As the Smithsonian points out, though, settlers had to find water to make it happen, which is exactly what this map was for.


San Francisco, 1859 vs. Present Day

In the 1850s, San Francisco was the place to find salty sailors and the occasional scurvy-stricken pirate. San Francisco was pretty cool back in the day.