Chicago is easily recognized in maps and views, its appearance defined by the city’s eccentric outline and the regularity—with occasional interruptions—of its interior grid.  The city’s distinctive appearance reflects the tension created by the regularity of the national grid of the U.S. Public Land Survey and the irregularities of the natural topography and earlier patterns of land ownership. The federal government first surveyed the Chicago region in the hopes of constructing a canal to create a continuous water route between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River.  This hope was fulfilled with the completion in 1848 of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which stretched 96 miles southwest  LaSalle, Illinois on land ceded by the Sauk, Fox, and Potawatomi nations to the United States after the War of 1812 (see also The Chicago Portage).

Chicago, as the eastern terminus of the canal, rose from a swampy frontier outpost to the largest metropolis of the continental interior. The anticipation of canal business sparked a property boom in the 1830s. Feverish real estate speculation sent land values skyward, and the population swelled from a few hundred in 1830 to over 4,000 by 1837.  During this manic period, and as the city continued to expand rapidly over the rest of the nineteenth century, the grid facilitated the quick division of the land by real estate developers and promoted efficient sales and settlement. In a sense, mapping made Chicago.



Conzen, Michael and Dillon, Diane. Mapping Manifest Destiny: Chicago and the American West. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2007.

Danzer, Gerald. “Chicago’s First Maps.” In Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City’s Map Trade, edited by Michael P. Conzen. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society for Chicago Map Society, 1984.

Dillon, Diane. “Consuming Maps.” In Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, edited by James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Dillon, Diane. "Mapping Enterprise: Cartography and Commodification at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.” In Nineteenth Century Geographies, edited by Helena Michie and Ronald Thomas. New Brunswick: Rutgers University, 2003.

Holland, Robert. Chicago in Maps: 1612-2002. New York: Rizzoli, 2005.

Johnson, Hildegard Binder. Order upon the Land: The U.S. Rectangular Land Survey and the Upper Mississippi Country. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Kasson, John F. Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America. New York: Hill & Wang, 1991.

Keating, Ann Durkin. Rising up from Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Reps, John W. Views and Viewmakers of Urban America: Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalog of Their Work, 1825-1925. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984.

Selmer, Marsha L. “Rufus Blanchard: Early Chicago Map Publisher.” In Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City's Map Trade, edited by Michael P. Conzen. Chicago: Chicago Map Society, 1984. 



The Library of Congress. “Panoramic Photographs.”