Map Collection

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-686-5397

The Map Collection is open for research by appointment only. To make an appointment, please email erefmap@freelibrary.org

Open today until 5:00 p.m.

Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday Closed

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., Sep. 3 : Closed Labor Day
  • Mon., Oct. 8 : Closed Columbus Day
  • Sun., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 22 : Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • Tue., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
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The Map Collection is a multidisciplinary collection of cartographic materials, housing over 130,000 current and historical maps. As part of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Special Collections division, the collection covers every area of the world, with a focus on Philadelphia and adjacent regions. It supports the teaching and learning of history, earth sciences, social studies, art, and literature, as well as research in the areas of genealogy, historic preservation, and land use. The Collection offers hundreds of reference books in the fields of: cartography, cartobibliography, geography, and place names.

To view items from the collection, please make an appointment via email at: erefmap@freelibrary.org, or call 215.686.5397. Please note that this collection is non-circulating.

To request high-resolution images of digitized maps from the Free Library of Philadelphia digital map collection, complete the Reproduction Request Form found on the Reproduction Services webpage.

 

Select collections are identified below:

 

Hexamer & Son Insurance Maps of the City of Philadelphia

This is an exceptional series of insurance maps of Philadelphia, and the predecessor to the Sanborn sets. They date from the 1870s through the 1920s. Within the volumes are detailed maps of neighborhoods that indicate: businesses, schools, organizations, industrial factories, and houses. They also indicate details like: building materials, street elevation, lot perimeters, and street widths. To find which volume of Hexamer maps you need, refer to this index map.

 

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Philadelphia

The Sanborn Map Company absorbed the Hexamer & Son Company in 1915 and continued their fire insurance map legacy in Philadelphia. We have an extensive collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Philadelphia available in multiple formats from 1916 to 2007. Like the Hexamer & Son maps, they provide detailed snapshots of neighborhoods, indicating: businesses, schools, organizations, industrial factories, and individual houses. They also indicate details like: building materials, street elevation, lot perimeters, and street widths. To identify the relevant volume of Philadelphia Sanborn maps, refer to this index map.

 

Ward (City) Atlases of Philadelphia

Beginning in the early 1860s, mapmakers produced highly detailed maps of Philadelphia neighborhoods using ward boundaries to define the scope of their atlases. To determine the ward number of a particular area of the city, refer to one of the index maps (organized chronologically) here.

 

Hexamer General (Industrial Site) Surveys

The General Surveys are site surveys of many of the industrial sites in the greater Philadelphia metro area. They date from 1866 through 1896. 

 

Other Types of Maps Available in the Map Collection

  • Aerial Photographs (Delaware Valley region)
  • Fantasy and Literary
  • FEMA
  • Geologic
  • NOAA Charts
  • ONC Charts
  • Pictorial
  • Road atlases
  • Thematic
  • Tactical Pilotage Charts
  • Topographic
  • World War II

 

Digital Map Collections

Philadelphia and Region

  • The Digital Map Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia contains 5,000 digitized maps of Philadelphia, including: road maps, railroad maps, land use maps, aerial photos, fire insurance maps, industrial site surveys, and ward atlases.
  • The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Map Overlay Tool is designed to bring history to the present! Historic maps from the Map Collection can be layered on top of a current road map, terrain map, or hybrid (satellite/road) map. Compare the similarities and differences between the old and new maps by adjusting the “visibility” bar, and see how Philadelphia has changed over time!
  • The Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network contains thousands of old maps, property atlases, aerial photos, city directories, industrial site surveys, and other items documenting the history and development of Philadelphia from the 1600s through today. Through a consortium of regional institutions, including the Free Library, thousands of materials are available through this site.
  • The West Philadelphia Community Center provides several digitized maps and atlases with a primary focus on West Philadelphia.
  • For Philadelphia zoning and permit information as well as historical imagery and maps, see Atlas, produced by the City of Philadelphia.
  • For maps of Philadelphia libraries, farmers markets, parks and athletic fields, see OpenMaps, produced by the City of Philadelphia.
  • The Bicycle Coalition has produced a Philadelphia Bicycle map and guide for local bikers.
  • The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission offers an interactive Circuit Trails map of a network of multi-use trails for the region.
  • Penn State University has a number of digitized Sanborn maps for Pennsylvania (including Philadelphia).  

United States and World

 

Research Support

Research Guides and Databases

Special Collections

  • Those interested in researching historical maps may also find the resources available within the Print and Picture Collection useful. The collection is home to extensive research collections of Philadelphia images, both historical and modern, as well as diverse collections of fine art prints, photographs, drawings, and artists’ books.
  • Click here to learn more about the Free Library’s other special collections and resources. 

Subject Department Collections at Parkway Central Library

  • The Social Science and History Department holds local history books and maintains file collections pertaining to Philadelphia history, local biographies, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Pennsylvania counties and government.
  • The Newspaper and Microfilm Center contains over 400 newspapers dating back to 1720, as well as city and telephone directories dating back to 1785 on microfilm. Many indexes and frequently asked questions can be found here. Those interested in the newspaper holdings should begin their research process by inquiring with the Social Science and History Department.
  • Government Publications at the Social Science and History Department houses the early Philadelphia censuses, including indexes to family names. It is a major resource for census, economic, and marketing data; political and election information; legislative histories, and statistics, and has extensive holdings of publications from the Federal government, the State of Pennsylvania, and the City of Philadelphia.
  • The Art Department holds an extensive selection of files on architects and designers, as well as the architecture of Philadelphia.
  • The Education Philosophy and Religion Department maintains a historic collection of pamphlets about education, historic churches, libraries, and more.

 

Support the Map Collection

Please support the Map Collection today. We depend on financial support to add new acquisitions to the collection, mount exhibitions, and care for the collection.