Six Notable & Unusual Maps of Southern California

USC Libraries

Six Notable & Unusual Maps of Southern California

Maps are rarely straightforward representations of the world. Since Edward O.C. Ord drew Los Angeles' first official map in 1849, mapmakers have projected their visions for the city onto their creations, shaping L.A.'s image and self-perception through maps ranging from putatively informational to fanciful and whimsical.

Maps have even shaped the city itself. Ord the surveyor imposed Cartesian order--and American land-use policies--on the formerly Mexican city by sketching an orthogonal grid of rectangular property tracts in the unsettled area southeast of the Plaza. In the ensuing years, city growth etched Ord's lines onto the landscape as the streets and city blocks of downtown L.A.

Similarly, transportation planners have long communicated their oft-competing visions for regional transportation through maps; the Harbor, Hollywood, and Santa Monica Freeways all began as a cartographer's line, sharing the page with proposed but never-built roads like the Beverly Hills Freeway. The maps appeared to present a rational solution to the city's traffic congestion woes, but they neither captured nor foresaw consequences like divided neighborhoods, air pollution, and further fragmentation of the metropolis.

This week, we asked the members of L.A. as Subject to search through their collections for one notable map that informs our understanding of Southern California. Their contributions below represent only a sampling of the map collections preserved in our region's archives.

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