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I need to map US settlements/towns/cities from colonial times through roughly 1900, for example Bath, NC founded 1705 at lat/lon. The minimal data I'm looking for would contain:

  • Name of town or settlement, e.g. "Bath".
  • Name or identifier of colony or state, e.g. "NC"
  • Founding year, e.g. "1705"
  • lat/lon coordinates (not complete polygon of extents - I just want to put a dot on a map and want to keep the size down)

Even better would be multiple entries per town over the years with population estimates, but that's not critical.

I'm also interested in mapping early road networks, but realize that's likely a different dataset.

Anything like that out there? Thanks!

  • If there are bonus points for population over the years, and early road networks, then what is the main data you want? Boundaries, surface area? Please read this and edit your question – Jan Doggen Dec 7 '18 at 8:37
  • Basic version on Wikidata – Stanislav Kralin Dec 7 '18 at 22:35
  • Thanks @StanislavKralin. I wasn't aware of this tool. – Eric McNeill Jan 30 at 19:32
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Wikipedia has a List of North American settlements by year of foundation, formatted as a sortable table. You can sort this list by country, and copy-paste the United States section into a spreadsheet. This data set contains the following fields:

  • Year founded
  • Name of settlement
  • Subdivision (state or province)
  • Country

It does not have lat/long coordinates. However, lat/long data for cities is readily available. I list a few sources below. You can use GIS software to join the two data sets based on the settlement name.

Data.gov has the Place (National) and City and Town Boundaries datasets.

ESRI provides USA Major Cities as a point layer, and North America City Areas as a polygon layer.

USGS provides a layer called USGS Small-scale Dataset - Cities and Towns of the United States 200402 Shapefile.

Natural Earth provides a world-wide layer of towns and cities called Populated Places.


The historical population data you want is probably on the Census Bureau website somewhere. I spent a while looking for it, but they sure don't make it easy to get to. I suggest you post that portion of your data request as a separate question with the census tag.

The one source I found for population data is a report from the Census Bureau called POPULATION OF THE 100 LARGEST CITIES AND OTHER URBAN PLACES IN THE UNITED STATES: 1790 TO 1990, which includes data in tabular form.

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This includes a total of 31 datasets https://catalog.data.gov/dataset?tags=cities which can include public data on US cities. Though not as specific as town and road, if you look around, the data may include more detailed information.

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