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This Clever Map is a Window into 19th Century New York City

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The early 19th century was a time of great change for New York, which had already cemented its status as America’s largest city.

The opening of the Erie Canal helped turn the city into a shipping powerhouse, and there was a building boom on the horizon. Cholera epidemics, fires, and riots swept through the city at various points.

This fascinating interactive map, from Esri, is a snapshot of New York City during the tumultuous time (1836 to be exact), overlaid on the modern-day satellite map.

Getting the Lay of the Land

The base map used above is the stunning “Topographical Map Of The City and County Of New–York, and the adjacent Country”, published by the prodigious mapmaker, Joseph Colton.

For easy viewing, the map’s legend is below:

1836 nyc map legend

This map includes all the usual features, such as roads and prominent buildings, but it also has some clever secondary information built in as well. For one, shading indicates ares that were more built-up at the time. There are also a number of visual techniques to indicate topographical features as well. After all, NYC wasn’t as extensive as it is today, and much of the land depicted in the map is still undeveloped.

The full map is well worth exploring as well, as there are a number of beautiful illustrations throughout.


Tool tip: Click the X on the info bar to hide it. (Mobile: Click the map, then the magnifying glass.)

The Big Picture: New York City in 1836

At this point in time, development in Lower Manhattan extended until about 14th Street, where buildings began to give way to open spaces. The city’s grid pattern was beginning to take shape, following the Commissioners’ Plan laid out in 1811. At the time, New York was anticipating massive growth, and the straightforward grid pattern was an efficient way to prepare the city for rapid expansion.

In the 1800s, fire was an ever-present danger for city dwellers. In fact, a major fire tore through Lower Manhattan a year prior to when this map was published.

great fire nyc 1935 map

Points of Interest

There are a number of points worth visiting on this map.

Transit Begins to Take Shape

In the 1830s, New York City’s first railroad line—horse powered for its first few years—connected Prince Street to the Harlem River, accelerating the city’s expansion northward from Lower Manhattan. This route is still recognizable today as the Harlem Line.

Evolving Shorelines

One very obvious difference between the two maps is how much land has been reclaimed along shorelines in the area. Battery Park City, on the west side of downtown, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard are two prominent examples of infill. Randall’s Island, located near the top of Manhattan, is also an interesting place to observe changes in topography. Randall’s Island is actually made up of three islands that were eventually conjoined in the 1960s.

This interactive map is a great place to explore changes to NYC’s shoreline over time.

Taming the Landscape

Midtown Manhattan is worth zooming into for a couple of reasons. First, the outline of Central Park is visible, although the park would officially be approved until almost 20 years later.

As well, this topographical map clearly shows the numerous outcroppings spread across the island. Manhattan was far from flat in the 1800s, and it took a tremendous amount of effort—starting with gunpowder, pickaxes, and horse-drawn carts—to level the land.

Looking at these historical maps is a reminder that the New York City we know today is the product of hundreds of years of human effort, and that cities continue to evolve over time.

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Countries

Mapped: The Population of China and India in Perspective

We compare the populations of India and China to other top countries and regions for a unique perspective on the world’s demographics.

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The Population of China and India in Perspective

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, each boast populations exceeding 1.4 billion people.

To put this into perspective, we visualized populations of China and India beside other leading countries and regions. All figures are for 2023, and were accessed via Worldometer.

Data and Key Takeaways

All of the data we used to create this graphic is listed in the table below.

Country / RegionPopulation (2023)
🌍 Africa1,460,481,772
🇮🇳 India1,428,627,663
🇨🇳 China1,425,671,352
🌎 Latin America & the Caribbean664,997,121
🇪🇺🇬🇧 EU plus UK516,659,018
🇺🇸 U.S.339,996,563
🇮🇩 Indonesia277,534,122

From these figures, we can see that the entire population of Africa (currently the fastest growing region in the world) barely surpasses that of China and India.

The populations of China and India are each more than double the size of Latin America and the Caribbean, and nearly triple that of the European Union (including the UK).

Fast Facts on Global Population

Here are some important figures to know regarding the world’s population:

  • China accounts for 17.7% of the world’s population, while India represents a slightly larger 17.8% share.
  • Africa is the fastest growing region in the world, with annual growth of about 2.4%.
  • Europe is the only region in the world that is shrinking, at about -0.17% annually.

Learn More About Demographics from Visual Capitalist

If you enjoy graphics like these, be sure to check out Population Projections: The World’s 6 Largest Countries in 2075.

It reveals a startling contrast between the trajectories of China and India, with the latter peaking at 1.7 billion in the mid-2060s.

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