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Minnesota on the Map

Minnesota on the Map

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A Historical Atlas

Author David A. Lanegran, Author Carol Urness

Minnesota Historical Society Press (August 1, 2008)

This magnificent volume brings together for the first time stunning but rarely seen maps of Minnesota through five centuries, showing what happened in the past and what was planned for the future.



The tiny region of the globe now known as Minnesota has appeared on maps for more than five centuries, in the sketchy first impressions of explorers, the exuberant promotions of boosters, and the analytical tools of planners and managers. This lavish treasury of almost 100 maps, some rarely seen and never before available in one volume, illuminates the imagined, real, and changing landscape of Minnesota.

Preeminent geographer David Lanegran embarks on his words-and-maps journey by introducing the early explorers’ maps, beginning in 1507, which record attempts to find a route to China around or through the American continent. Changes in early military and political maps measured the country’s expanding boundaries, and increasingly detailed maps encouraged settlement and the development of towns and cities.

Lanegran offers stories of the fascinating controversies that fueled the state’s development and how maps made a difference in their outcome. Readers learn about Duluth’s port war with Superior, Wisconsin, how railroads dictated the shape of cities like Brainerd, the cruel fate of villages like Winona County’s Beaver, the importance of the state’s first 1919 highway map, and how Boundary Waters maps created a tourism bonanza. Lanegran’s concluding assessment of a digital GIS map details how human processes have changed the face of the state.

Praise for Minnesota on the Map:

"Handsome, engaging book. . . . In little more than 200 pages, 500 years of Minnesota history unfolds in a splendid array of maps, starting from the early 16th century up to the present, accompanied by Lanegrans' concise, informative prose. . . . There's a lot of information packed into this terrific book."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Author information

David A. Lanegran holds the John S. Holl Endowed Chair of Geography and is chair of the Department of Geography at Macalester College in St. Paul. He has written books, articles, and papers focusing on geography, historic preservation, and planning while receiving many honors and service awards for his teaching and contributions to geography education.

Carol Urness is a professor and curator emerita at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.

Reviews and news

"There's a lot of information packed into this terrific book. There are state maps, county maps, townships, cities and towns, all presented in bite-sized portions. The usual high standards of layout, visual presentation and production we expect from this publisher are evident on every page."
Star Tribune

​"This atlas amply covers the exploration of the state with maps that show the formation of planned communities, ethnic enclaves, and industrial centers. The accompanying text provides the historical change such elements represent. Transportation, entertainment, and tourism illustrate other focuses, as does a special map-rich section depicting the development and growth phases of the state's largest metropolitan area of the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. This is a lovely and thorough example of a historical atlas.
Bloomsbury Review​

"Lanegran offers stories of the fascinating controversies that fueled the state's development and how maps made a difference in their outcome. . . . An ideal publication for that Minnesota coffee table."

Rochester Post Bulletin

  • 224 pages
  • 212 color illustrations
  • 9.75 x 10.375 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873515931

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