Michigan Bird’s-Eye-View Maps (1866 – 1889)
- Grade: 3rd - 5th
- Primary Source Set
Bird’s eye maps came into popularity after the Civil War and into the early 20th century. A bird’s-eye-view map shows a place from an aerial or “bird’s eye” perspective. Artists would walk the streets of a city, sketching buildings and landscaping. They would then depict what they saw as if viewed from above. Despite mapmakers practicing this method of mapping for centuries, bird’s-eye-view maps became very popular.
Small towns and urban centers all over the United States clamored for bird’s eye view maps. One reason for their popularity is that the maps offered cities, businesses, and organizations a great way to promote themselves. As a result, businesses, churches, and individuals paid money to the mapmaker to have their buildings included or even highlighted. These maps are often an idyllic view of a place, showing industry, progress, and wealth.
Familiar location is a key consideration when teaching with bird’s-eye-view maps. Making connections to a map is easier when students recognize landmarks, streets, and buildings. This primary source set of maps offers a variety of locations throughout Michigan. Students can analyze the maps to: interpret point of view, context (when was the map made and why was it important for that location), bias, and frame of reference. Students can also examine change over time not only in their community, but in communities across Michigan.
Michigan Social Studies Standards
- 3-H3.0.1: Explain how historians use primary and secondary sources to answer questions about the past.
- 3-H3.0.7: Use a variety of primary and secondary sources to construct a historical narrative about daily life in the early settlements of Michigan.
- 3-G1.0.2: Use thematic maps to identify and describe the physical and human characteristics of Michigan.
- 4-H3.0.5: Use visual data and informational text or primary accounts to compare a major Michigan economic activity today with that same activity or a related activity in the past.
- 4-G2.0.2: Locate and describe human and physical characteristics of major U.S. regions and compare them to the Great Lakes region
Primary Source Set
Birds-Eye View of Muskegon Michigan From Muskegon Lake Looking East
Printed birds-eye view of Muskegon, Michigan.