Southern California, 1915

This map was received by the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division from the Automobile Club of Southern California as a copyright deposit. The Automobile Club of Southern California has promoted the development of automobile roads since its founding in 1900. The Geography and Map Division is the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world, numbering more than 5.2 million maps. Maps are acquired by the division through gifts, purchases, and exchanges, as well as through deposits for copyright registration and protection.

Automobile Club of Southern California, Drafting Department. Prospective map showing automobile roads, Los Angeles and vicinity, 1915. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (1)

California as an Island

Throughout most of the seventeenth century, California was believed to be an island. The manuscript map of the Baja Peninsula and what is now the state of California was drawn by Johannes Vingboons for the Dutch West India Company in approximately 1639.

Johannes Vingboons. Map of Baja California shown as an island. Manuscript map, 1639. Gift of Henry Harisse, 1915. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (2)

The Baja Peninsula

The composite map plate is from the 1779 supplement to Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie. The five interpretations of the Baja Peninsula date from 1606 to 1767. The first view portrays California before the period when it was believed to be an island.

Carte de la Californie. Engraved map, ca. 1779. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (3)

Los Angeles, 1873

Shown here is the earliest manuscript map of Los Angeles in the collections of the Library of Congress, as drawn ninety-two years after Los Angeles was first settled by the Spanish. The surveyor documented not only land ownership around the plaza, but also the outline of the settlement's brick-covered water supply conduit (in blue). Note that today's Olvera Street was then named Wine Street.

Free Harbor Jubilee

The siting of Los Angeles's harbor at San Pedro was the outcome of an intense competition in the 1890s between railroad interests that desired a monopoly port on their property in Santa Monica and advocates of a public harbor twenty miles south of the city in San Pedro. After the U.S. Congress appropriated funds for the San Pedro site, commencement of building the breakwater was celebrated in a two-day jubilee.

Los Angeles comprised just over twenty-eight square miles when it was incorporated in 1850. Today, through annexation and consolidation, the city is 465 square miles in area. In 1916, at the time this map was created, the city included the half-mile wide "shoestring," which annexed San Pedro, but little of west Los Angeles and only the lower portions of the San Fernando Valley.

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1909 Los Angeles

Nineteenth and early-twentieth century panoramic maps of American cities were expressions of civic pride and ballyhoo. In 1909, Los Angeles boasted of robust growth, a major harbor, extensive commuter rail systems, an oil boom, and a thriving downtown. The population of the city at this time was approximately 300,000.

Los Angeles 1909. Los Angeles: Birdseye View Publishing Co., 1909. Printed map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (10)

The Owens River Valley Aqueduct

Discussion of the diversion of water from Owens Valley to Los Angeles still generates much controversy. Yet, while the principles involved in depleting the valley of its resources may be open to question, the building of the aqueduct system was undoubtedly a major engineering accomplishment. William Mulholland's system, opened in 1913, brought water to the city via a 233-mile aqueduct. Without this new source of water, Los Angeles's growth would have stagnated.

Topographic Map of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and Adjacent Territory. Water Department of the City of Los Angeles, Board of Commissioners, 1908. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (12)

"I render my message in the humorous manner as I'd rather find you with a smile of understanding than a frown of research."

Jo Mora's fanciful homage to Los Angeles was published in 1942. The work is dedicated to Charles F. Lummis, the writer, librarian, and preservationist who came to Los Angeles in 1884, having walked there from Cincinnati. Mora (1876–1947) was born in Uruguay. A painter, sculptor, photographer, and writer, he is best known for his work centered on California history and Indian tribes of the Southwest.

Map of California by Jo Mora, 1942

Joseph Jacinto Mora. Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciúncula. Monterey, California: Jo Mora Publications, 1942. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (27) Shown online with the permission of Jo N. Mora

Los Angeles Oil Fields, 1906

Edward L. Doheny's 1892 discovery of oil near downtown Los Angeles led to an oil boom around the turn of the twentieth century. Hundreds of wells were dug throughout the city, often in the front or backyards of residences.

Street and Section Map of the Los Angeles Oil Fields, California. U. S. Geological Survey.Printed Map, 1906. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (11)

Los Angeles Census Data

Maps held by the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, and other map libraries, are not limited to presenting natural or man-made topographic formations. In these thematic maps, demographic, economic, and cultural data collected in the 1970 and 1990 U. S. censuses are interpreted and presented in graphic form.

Urban Atlas."Percentage of Total Population 65 Years of Age or Older." Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (30a)

Urban Atlas. "Tract Data for Standard Metropolitan Statistical Index Showing Interrelationships of Family Income and Educational Attainment." Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (30b)

Urban Atlas. "Median Housing Value." Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (30c)

Bureau of the Census. Misery Index. Printed map, 1991. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (31)

Red Cars and Yellow Cars

At the turn of the twentieth century Los Angeles could boast of an extensive commuter rail system with more than 1000 miles of track. Best remembered are the Pacific Electric lines of commuter railroad "Red Cars," whose lines are shown here in red. A complex streetcar system, outlined in yellow, also served Central Los Angeles. The last pre-Metro commuter train in Los Angeles was the train to Long Beach. It ceased running in 1961.


The region's first commuter railroad lines were private, built by land speculators that hoped that availability of a commuter train would encourage people to buy property and build homes. Given the boom and bust cycles of Los Angeles real estate in the early twentieth century, many of the planned communities were unsuccessful. In some cases, the areas around these Red Car stops no longer bear any traces of their original names.

Лос-Анжелос (Los Angeles)

The Soviet Union's military program to map the world began in the late 1930s. It has been estimated that the maps created of foreign countries number over 300,000 sheets. Until satellite imagery began to be used in 1962, the maps were most likely adaptations of maps issued by U. S. Government agencies, supplemented by information obtained first-hand. Symbols and place names on this map of Los Angeles document the locations of reservoirs, airports, railway stations, tunnels, schools, and country clubs.

Soviet military topographic map of Los Angeles and vicinity. Printed map, 1961. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (16)

Sunday Drives

On a nice Sunday afternoon in 1912, Los Angeles residents might take their new Model Ts out for a drive in the country. The Automobile Club published several pocket strip maps to guide them on a scenic route. This map guided drivers from downtown Los Angeles north to Sunland and back along a dirt road on the east side of the Verdugo hills. At that time, the drive of fifty miles might have taken three hours.

Pocket highway maps aided less leisurely road travel than the strip maps of 1912. Hi Wā "Strip Graphs" were produced in 1947 to guide drivers on modern highways to cities hundreds of miles away.

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The Freeway System's Beginnings

The Automobile Club of Southern California's 1937 Traffic Survey provided the conceptual blueprint for the development of Los Angeles's freeway system. Construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway (now Pasadena Freeway) was begun the next year. The Cahuenga Pass section of the Hollywood Freeway (101) was completed in 1940. This map was published in 1954 before the inception of the Interstate Highway System. The portion of the San Bernardino Freeway as shown on this map was called the Ramona Freeway.

Los Angeles & Vicinity Freeway System. Automobile Club of Southern California. Printed pamphlet, 1954. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (20)

Freeway Driving Suggestions

This Automobile Club publication offers tips for highway driving, which was new to Angelenos in 1955. It advises prospective freeway drivers to study the map of on- and off-ramps, especially those around Los Angeles's unique four-level "stack" downtown. "Select the lane in which you want to travel and do not change except when necessary," advised the Automobile Club with optimism.

Freeway Driving Suggestions, Downtown Los Angeles Freeways. National Automobile Club. Printed pamphlet, 1955. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (22)


This imaginative 1937 souvenir map of Los Angeles and guide to houses of its most famous stars must have delighted movie-loving visitors. The map features unidentified caricatures of movie stars romping throughout the city and border portraits of Hollywood's best known actors.

Star-gazing in the '30s

Star-struck tourists of 1938 in search of the homes of their favorite film players could find plenty of details in this map. The map may or may not be any more accurate than the out-dated and fictional ones sold on street corners today, but it is nice to think that Peter Lorre was able to borrow a cup of sugar from Leslie Howard next-door.

Albert Ragsdale. Ragsdale's Movie Guide Map. Los Angeles, California,1938. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (15)

Bullock's Place-map

This disposable paper placemat from Bullock's Tea Room is preserved in the collections of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. Yesterday's ephemera has become an artifact which provides a glimpse of 1934 Los Angeles. Depicted here are institutions and locations one might associate with an elegant tea room, such as country clubs, private social clubs, and nightclubs. Less expected landmarks referenced are the public alligator and ostrich attractions of Lincoln Heights and oil tank farms in El Segundo.

Bullock's Department Store Tea Room mat. Los Angeles, California and vicinity. Pictorial map, 1934. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (28)

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