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San Francisco From the Air, 1938 and Today

This amazing composite photo gives a scrollable, zoomable high-resolution view of 1938 San Francisco

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Put together by the David Rumsey Map Collection, this amazing composite map is a high-resolution, scrollable, zoomable map of San Francisco circa 1938. Each of the vertical photographers used in the composite map, says the collection, was shot by Harrison Ryker, an Oakdale, Calif., native who studied at the University of California–Berkeley after serving in the U.S. Army in World War I.

In his time after the war, Ryker teamed with pilots flying out of Oakland to practice his hobby in aerial photography. Over the years, Ryker opened a map publishing business and earned patents for new cartographic instruments.

“The map may look familiar to San Franciscans,” says Laughing Squid, “but there are a number of historical oddities—in 1938 vast swathes of the Sunset district were still covered in sand dunes, and sections of the aerial photos were censored to conceal military installations.”

Indeed, on a broad scale, the old composite map compares pretty well to the modern view offered by Google. But, zooming all the way in to the 1938 map offers you a new view on the history of the town.

More from Smithsonian.com:

This Picture of Boston, Circa 1860, Is the World’s Oldest Surviving Aerial Photo

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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