To assist in browsing, each map has been assigned to a general type. The types capture the overall purpose of the map, and are intended to assist researchers interested in browsing or searching for similar categories of historic maps of North Carolina.
Many of the maps included in this project are maps that were originally published in atlases. These are often general maps, showing the entire state, and include a wide variety of information. Atlas maps often show cities and towns, county boundaries, rivers, roads, and railroads. These are excellent resources for studying both the geographic and demographic transformation of North Carolina.
Coast and Geodetic Survey
Formally established by the U.S. government in 1807, the United States Coast Survey, later the Coast and Geodetic Survey, produced accurate and detailed maps of the American coast for over one hundred years. The entire North Carolina coast was covered, and these maps were often revised and republished. The Coast and Geodetic Survey maps are essential resources for anyone studying the history and ecology of the North Carolina coast.
Discovery and Exploration
These maps, some of the earliest published maps of North Carolina, show how early travellers and cartographers viewed the area that is now North Carolina. Published primarily in 17th and 18th centuries, these maps show the developing borders of the colony and state, the steady appearance of roads and towns, and document the early presence of Native Americans throughout the region.
Fire Insurance Maps
Fire Insurance maps were produced for many North Carolina cities beginning in the late 19th century. These maps, produced primarily by the Sanborn® Map Company, show a great amount of detail, including the size and purpose of buildings in the downtown and surrounding areas.
Several of the maps digitized for the online collection were published in order to illustrate geologic types and formations throughout the state. The Office of the State Geologist began producing maps in the 1880s, with later maps published by the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey.
With the 1916 publication of a state highway map by the North Carolina State Highway Commission, the state government began to take an active role in producing maps, issuing updated highway maps on a regular basis, a practice that continues to the present. In addition to statewide highway maps, this category also includes county highway maps published in 1938 and again in the mid 1960s, as well as some commercial maps on which highways and roads are prominently featured.
Browse Official State Highway Maps
This category includes original, hand-drawn maps, many of which show North Carolina counties and towns. These unique maps often show specific details, and many include the names of property owners.
These maps depict troop movements or placement, the locations of battlements and fortifications or the sites of battles. Several maps also depict military campaigns. North Carolina was the site of military action during both the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Military maps in this collection are both hand-drawn and printed.
Nautical maps were produced to be used aboard ship, and were especially important for those navigating the treacherous waters and shifting inlets along North Carolina's Outer Banks. These maps often show soundings and include great detail along the coast. Some contain written instructions for sailors. Most of the maps in this category were published by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Post route maps, often published by the United States Post Office, can be incredibly detailed and informative, showing even the smallest towns and communities throughout the state.
The maps in this category show private and/or government property, and in most cases include property lines.
Since the completion of the Wilmington & Weldon railroad line in 1840, railroads have been included on maps of North Carolina. Although most maps published since that date show railroads, this category contains only those maps on which railroads are prominently featured.
Soil Survey Maps
The formal survey of North Carolina soils by the United States Bureau of Soils and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture began in the late 1800s, with the first map -- a survey of the soils around New Bern -- published in 1900. The first county soil survey -- Alamance County -- was published in 1901. These maps were produced regularly throughout the 20th century, with survey maps eventually published for every North Carolina county, including several counties that were surveyed two or more times. These colorful maps are extremely detailed, showing not only soil types but roads, railroads, houses, churches, and many more geographic and cultural features.