With over 5,000 items, our map collection is an invaluable resource for anyone researching California. It includes rarities such as a map of California as an island, James Marshall's gold-discovery map, and a map of John Bidwell's land grant. We have highlighted a small selection of our maps in our catalog. If you have any questions about these resources or if you cannot find what you need (many of our map records are not yet online), please feel free to contact us.
The library's online catalog identifies only a portion of our map collection. However, we have a more comprehensive card catalog of our map resources available in the California History Room. To check for the existence of a map in a specific region, please contact us. We also suggest that you check the Government Publications Section's equally extensive map collection.
Although the majority of our maps are in original, hard-copy format and must be used in-house, a small portion of the collection may exist in books or microfilm which may circulate via the inter-library loan service of your local library. You may also arrange for photographic reproductions or low-resolution copies of some of our maps. If you have any questions about these or other possible access options, please contact us.
To accommodate researchers who are able to visit us, we provide access to digital microfilm and microfiche scanners that allow you to email or save scans to a flash-drive free of charge of our microfiche and microfilm maps. If you need paper copies of maps on microfilm or microfiche, we have a coin-operated reader/printer. Each print-out costs 25 cents. We also permit no-flash photography and can arrange for low-resolution scans of some of our paper maps, depending on their size and condition. Please consult our copying services page for further conditions and pricing.
Theodore D. Judah’s 1861 Hand-drawn Map
The May 10, 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, marked the extraordinary technological achievement of the age. The United States was fully connected for the first time. People, goods, and mail could travel all the way across the country in less than a week rather than in months. Migration soared, as did diversity. The things that make California world renowned—agriculture, technical innovation, natural beauty—had new markets and were recognized and sought after. Collaborative projects blossomed and many of the strengths our state now enjoys were established. California, sometimes depicted as an island on maps, was definitely no longer such a remote place.
But the railroad was also built on the backbreaking and often lethal work of laborers, many of whom suffered from great inequalities. The railroad split up and displaced native peoples and caused pronounced environmental change. Challenges that we recognize and are wrestling with today were set to a faster pace with the coming of the railroad and the last 150 years have seen us adapting to the changes brought by this technological marvel.