The Timeline Atlas of the United States
The Timeline Atlas of the United States is an interactive map that allows the user to animate through over 200 years of American History. Drag the timeline handle and watch trails illustrate westward expansion, territories grow and divide and as States join the Union. Along the way Presidents, National Flags, and quick facts display per year.
Did you know that there were more Americans living in urban areas than rural areas for the first time in 1920? Did you know that the United States kind of had 14 presidents before George Washington?
In the "State Facts" chapter, users can click a state to get various factoids, not least of which is the name origin. Did you know that California was named after a fictional island in a 16th century Spanish romance? It was. And no one is entirely certain how Oregon even got its name.
In the "Name Origins" chapter, states are categorized by their name origin; Native American, British, French, Spanish, Individuals, Physiographic Feature, or some Other Place. There are some pretty interesting correlations. For example, the British really liked to name places after people, while Native Americans tended to name them after what they saw there.
What is it?
This download is an executable (.exe) file that was made using Flash. It is 2.3 megabytes in size. It only runs on Windows machines, sorry Mac users. You do not need an Internet connection to open or use the Atlas (but you do need a connection to download the Atlas). This Atlas won the 2004 National Geographic Society’s Award for Cartography. Have at it.
Where did it come from?
In 2003 my dad, Burt Nelson (below), and I presented a paper at the Michigan Academy of Arts Sciences and Letters. We just used overhead slides of black and white maps with the various state name origin categories filled in. I thought it could be way cooler so over the next year I made this atlas, which grew into an interactive timeline map. We presented it at the National Council for Geographic Education‘s annual conference and gave them out to teachers. It went well. Then we blew off the rest of the conference, rented a car, and drove all over Utah (aside –if random chunks of Utah were moved to other parts of the country, every square inch of it would be designated national park).
Why is it Free?
Because I never found a way to make money off of it. Also it hasn’t been updated since 2004. Anyways, enjoy it. I had fun making it and I get a kick out of seeing it in use. The Michigan Geographic Alliance distributes this Atlas on disk to educators. If you don’t want to download it here, they might mail you a copy (if you are a teacher). If you use this, let me know how it goes, I would love to hear about it.