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Explore 1938 Aerial Photography of San Francisco through Google Earth

Composite of 1938 aerial photos of San FranciscoThe historical aerial photography of 1938 San Francisco is now avilable in Google Earth. “Glenn Bachmann of the Rumsey Map Collection led this project, the results of which allow the 1938 imagery to be overlaid on current satellite views of the city in Google Earth when you turn on historical imagery for San Francisco,” informs David Rumsey, President of Cartography Associates and founder of the David Rumsey Map Collection.

“In August of 1938, a pioneer of aerial photography, Harrison Ryker, worked with pilots out of Oakland Airport to create a series of high resolution images of San Francisco. Each pilot flew from north to south, completing about 12 passes to create a group of vertical black-and-white photographs, overlapping each other by approximately 30 to 50 percent. The result was 164 large prints covering the entire city at about 1 meter resolution, courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection,” posted David.

These photographs combine the best aspects of photographic veracity and immediacy with the scale, artistry, and cartographic tools of mapping. It is like combining a photograph and a map of the same place, together.

Residents of San Francisco can enjoy these magnificent photographs by visiting the San Francisco Public Library. But if you don’t happen to be visiting the Bay Area anytime soon, you can also enjoy the entire collection online here.

You can also view these historic photos in geographic context online in the Rumsey Historical Maps online gallery using the Google Earth plug-in — or view the embed below:

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