Spend hours clicking through this animated 1930s atlas of America

After Charles O. Paullin's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States was published, its editor John K. Wright bemoaned their inability to create "motion-picture" maps. Over 80 years later, the University of Richmond has made that a reality.

If you head over to the University of Richmond's Digital Scholarship Lab, you can see it's recently released Internet version of the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. The original atlas, published in 1932, contained nearly 700 hundred maps covering all sorts of subjects. Almost all of these maps have been georectified – warped so that they can lay consistently over the single digital map – and georeferenced – points of the map linked to geographic coordinates. A number of the maps are also clickable, giving you instant access to the data for a specific place.

The result is Paullin's work coming to life before your eyes. Compare "Persons Per Motor Vehicle" in 1913 versus 1930. Or see the rates of travel between New York and the rest of the country shrink between 1800 and 1930. The table of contents divides the atlas into 18 "chapters" covering everything from "The Natural Environment" to "Military History, 1689-1919." But it's almost more fun to just start at the beginning and let the whole thing unfold, one map at a time.

I, for one, am fascinated by the expansion of colleges and universities between 1775 and 1890. Anyone else have a favorite map from this collection?

[via The New York Times]