American Cities: Before and After

Cool Finds

The City of Chicago Is Sinking. Here's Why

Ice sheets that receded 10,000 years ago are responsible for the Windy City dropping at least four inches over the last century

Cool Finds

Rare 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Footage Found at Flea Market

The nine-minute Miles brothers film reel shows the devastation that the powerful quake wrought

Scene from the 1967 Detroit riot.

Trending Today

Study Shows Little Change Since Kerner Commission Reported on Racism 50 Years Ago

An update to the landmark study finds there is now more poverty and segregation in America

What Is Dark Matter and More Questions From Our Readers

You asked, we answered

The first map of the new Hollywood development, from 1887.

Cool Finds

Hollywood Was Once an Alcohol-Free Community

Modern Hollywood is a far cry from its intrepid female founder's "dream of beauty"

Photo courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection. Interactive by Esri. Text by Natasha Geiling.

NYC

This Interactive Map Compares the New York City of 1836 to Today

Manhattan had a very different topography than the concrete jungle we know today

Photo courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection. Interactive by Esri. Text by Natasha Geiling.

American Cities: Before and After

When the Lincoln Memorial Was Underwater

James Keily’s 1851 map of Washington shows a considerably smaller district, before the Potomac River was filled in to make way for monuments

Photo courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection; Interactive by Esri; Text by Natasha Geiling.

American Cities: Before and After

Before There Could Be a Los Angeles, There Had to be Water

California’s first state engineer, along with a team of surveyors, created this hand drawn map in 1880 to explore Los Angeles’ water resources

Photo courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection; Interactive by Esri; Text by Natasha Geiling.

American Cities: Before and After

When Real Estate Plotters Planned Out Denver

Bankers and speculators in the Colorado capital used this 1879 map to explore the Mile High City’s real estate potential

Photo courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection; Interactive by Esri; Text by Natasha Geiling.

American Cities: Before and After

What Did San Francisco Look Like in the Mid-1800s?

A look at a sailing chart of San Francisco and its bay, made in 1859 by the fledgling US Coast Survey

Interactive map courtesy of Esri. Text by Natasha Geiling.

Ask Smithsonian 2017

What Did Chicago Look Like Before the Great Fire?

This 1868 pocket map of Chicago shows the city in full-blown expansion, a mere 3 years before the infamous blaze

loading icon