National Atlas of the United States

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A National Atlas map from 2002
National Atlas map (from circa 2005) depicting historical United States territorial acquisitions

The National Atlas of the United States is an atlas published by the United States Department of the Interior. Older editions were printed, but the publication is now online. Since it is a publication of the United States government, the atlas and the maps contained therein are in the public domain.

According to the U.S. National Atlas website, this atlas "provides a comprehensive, maplike view into the enormous wealth of geospatial and geostatistical data collected for the United States."[1] Its purpose is also to increase "geographic knowledge and understanding and to foster national self-awareness."[1] Information used to develop the National Atlas of the United States is also used in conjunction with Canadian and Mexican information to produce continental-scale tools such as the North American Environmental Atlas.

The (current) National Atlas of the United States contains many maps, including maps of climate patterns, U.S. federal lands and Indian reservations, U.S. Presidential elections, satellite views, time zones, U.S. territorial acquisitions, and U.S. congressional districts for the 113th Congress.[1][2][3]

In February 2014, it was announced that the National Atlas of the United States and the National Map will merge into a one combined integrated source for cartographic and geospatial information.[4] Due to this, on September 30, 2014, will be removed from service.[4]


1874 edition[edit]

The first National Atlas of the United States, titled the "Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census 1870", was published in 1874.[1] Francis A. Walker, the Superintendent of the 1870 U.S. Census, was the one who compiled this atlas "with contributions from many eminent men of science and several departments of the government."[1] The 1874 U.S. National Atlas contained population maps as well as economic and natural resources maps (including maps of forests, precious metals, coal, climate, and crops).[1]

1920 edition[edit]

Henry Gannett, who worked as the Chief Geographer of both the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), led the production of three additional National Atlases of the United States after 1874, with the last of these atlases being published in 1920.[1]

National Atlas Logo

1970 edition[edit]

The next edition of the National Atlas of the United States was issued in 1970—half a century later.[1] The USGS and its chief geographer Dr. Arch C. Gerlach oversaw the preparation and production (which took several years to complete) of the 1970 U.S. National Atlas as well.[1][5] The 1970 atlas weighed twelve pounds, contained four hundred pages, and had a collection of 765 maps.[1] These maps showed "scientific information from a variety of Federal sources and depicted the principal characteristics of the country, including its physical features, historical evolution, economic activities, sociocultural conditions, administrative subdivisions, and place in world affairs."[1]

The 1970 atlas was primarily created for use by United States government officials, researchers, and others who need "to visualize country-wide patterns and relationships between environmental phenomena and human activities".[1] 15,000 copies of the 1970 atlas were printed, and its price of US$100 ($607 in 2014) made it cost-prohibitive for most Americans.[1] A majority of those 15,000 copies were bought by schools and libraries.[1] The 1970 atlas has been out of print since the early 1970s, but the Library of Congress has posted it online as part of its American Memory collection.[1]

1997 edition[edit]

The current National Atlas of the United States was created and begun in 1997 (but expanded in the years afterwards).[1] The USGS led in the creation of the 1997 U.S. National Atlas as well, but more than twenty U.S. federal agencies also participated in helping to create this atlas.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q The National Atlas of the United States of America (2013-01-14). "Learn about the National Atlas". Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  2. ^ The National Atlas of the United States of America (2013-04-24). "Printable Maps". Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  3. ^ The National Atlas of the United States of America (2013-05-03). "Printable Maps - 113th Congressional Districts". Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  4. ^ a b "USGS Release: The National Map and National Atlas Merge (2/28/2014 11:00:00 AM)". 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2014-05-04. 
  5. ^ "Capital Footnotes", Daily News, December 12, 1967: 34, retrieved June 1, 2013 

External links[edit]