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Geography Awareness Week: The First Statistical Atlas

If you’ve been following Falvey Library’s social media, blog, and in-person events this week you already know all about Geography Awareness Week. On Tuesday, we hosted an open house featuring some highlights from The John F. Smith, III and Susan B. Smith Antique Map Collection and other map holdings from Distinctive Collections. Visitors especially enjoyed browsing through several nineteenth-century grade school geography books. In case you missed it, many maps can be found online in the Digital Library. Here is one of my favorites:


Walker’s Statistical Atlas of the United States: Based on the Results of the Ninth Census 1870 with Contributions from Many Eminent Men of Science and Several Departments of the Government.

See the full atlas in the Digital Library here:

Geological Map of the United States, 1874.


Published in 1874 and compiled by Francis A. Walker, the superintendent of the 1870 census, this is the first statistical atlas – that is, the first national atlas that took data from the United States census and published visualizations in the form of maps and charts. (Hint: take note and check out the Falvey Data Visualization Competition!)

Part I of the atlas shows maps of the physical features of the U.S., including geological formations, woodlands, river systems, rain-fall, and temperature. Parts II and III feature thematic maps and graphs of “Population, Social and Industrial Statistics” and “Vital Statistics.” There are maps showing the Black population, the population of those with “foreign parentage,” wealth, debt, birth rates, death by specific diseases, and so much more.

In a section titled, “The Progress of the Nation,” several maps show the density of general population (ahem, “excluding Indians not Taxed”) in a series of maps from 1790 to 1870. The 1870 map includes the addition of Native American reservations to the map.


Inspired by Merril Stein’s recent demo of PolicyMap, an online GIS data mapping and analytics tool, here is a demographic map showing the population density in the United States in 2020 (the source is the 2020 census).


PolicyMap. (n.d.). Number of people per square mile in 2020 [Map based on data from Census: US Bureau of the Census, 2000 Longform]. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from

Learn more about statistical atlases and the U.S. Census Bureau here:


Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Librarian/Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Last Modified: November 16, 2023

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