Boston
Now & Then
Use the slider below to reveal the Boston area in 1893. The historical topographic mapping collection lets users explore how physical and cultural features change over time. The maps are particularly useful to scientists, historians, genealogists and others researching a specific geographic area. A series of maps of the same area published over a period of time can show how an area looked before development and provide a detailed view of changes over time.

Accessing historical topographic maps has never been easier

TopoView highlights one of the USGS's most important and useful products, the topographic map. In 1879, the USGS began to map the Nation's topography. This mapping was done at different levels of detail, in order to support various land use and other purposes. As the years passed, the USGS produced new map versions of each area. The most current maps are available from The National Map. TopoView shows the many and varied older maps of each area, and so is useful for historical purposes—for example, the names of some natural and cultural features have changed over time, and the 'old' names can be found on these historical topographic maps.

This interface was created by the National Geologic Map Database project (NGMDB), in support of topographic mapping program managed by the National Geospatial Program (NGP). Geologic mapping and topographic mapping at the USGS have a long tradition together (see 1888 report). The NGMDB project is proud to assist the NGP in bringing these maps to the Web.

Packed with new features and downloadable file formats

The maps shown through topoView are from the USGS’s Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC). The goal of this scanning, which started in 2011, is to provide a digital repository of USGS 1:250,000 scale and larger (more detailed) maps printed between 1884 (the inception of the topographic mapping program), and 2006. Currently, there are more than 178,000 maps in the HTMC. The NGP is accurately cataloging and creating metadata to accompany high-resolution, georeferenced digital files of each of these printed maps. At present, these maps are offered as GeoPDFs, through The National Map and the USGS Store. However, additional formats are now being offered for evaluation and use through topoView to include:

GeoTIFF – The GeoTIFF files are a compressed, 300 dpi TIFF image format, with embedded georeferencing information so that the map can be used directly in a Geographic Information System (GIS). The GeoTIFFs are generated at true scale, allowing users to plot the map at the intended map scale in cases where a hard copy is needed.

JPEG – The high-resolution JPEGs, or 'Browse JPEG' format are useful for getting a quick view of the map in order to find place names or simply explore the map area without the need for downloading a large file.

KMZ – The KMZ format is a compressed form of the KML format which is used for displaying the maps in Google Earth.

Send us your feedback

We're pleased to offer these formats to you, and invite you to explore the collection of historical topographic maps. Help us make topoView more useful by sending us comments and suggestions on the site's usability and the addition of new downloadable formats.