Illinois Historical Aerial Photographs

Sources for Illinois historical aerial photographs are listed in this post.

Old Shawneetown, Illinois after levee break, February 6, 1937<br/>National Archives

An aerial photograph is similar to a time capsule in its ability to convey information from the past to the future. It enables confirmation of book and map content and correction of errors. Author and relative depictions of events may be weighed against the evidence captured in a picture. The featured photo demonstrates the devastion unleashed by the Ohio River on Old Shawneetown, Illinois during the 1937 flood. Sources that I have found for Illinois historical aerial photosgraphs are detailed below:

National Archives

The National Archives has a digitized aerial photos collection that includes Illinois locations. Searches may be performed at the following location: Airscapes of American and Foreign Areas, 1917 - 1964. This National Archives article from the Unwritten Blog provides guidance on navigating the archive: The Digitization of 18-AA. The resolution of the photos in this collection is astounding.

Southern Illinois 1937 Flood Aerial Photos was created using selections from the Airscapes collection.

Illinois Historical Aerial Photos

Provided by the Illinois State Geological Survey Prairie Research Institute, the Illinois Historical Aerial Photos Collection contains photographs from 1937 to 1947. The “Find Tool” allows selection of a county, township, or section. The “House Icon” at the top right enables searching by address. The “Ruler Icon” measures distances on the map. The photos may be downloaded in tiff, jpg, and sid formats. The detail provided is decent.

Many of the Southeastern Illinois Railroad mileposts contain aerial photos from this collection. They were used to validate locations of railroad depots with old maps that have been found in various locations.

Note: Requires Adobe Flash

Google Earth

Google Earth enables present day verification of a location’s appearance. The tool also has some historic content that may be accessed from the toolbars. Lines and locations can be added to Google Earth and the entire collection downloaded to KML or KMZ data files. The quality of the photography in Google Earth is excellent.

USGS Earth Explorer

The U.S. Geological Survey Earth Explorer tool provides single historical images and satellite photos that have outstanding quality. A user account is required to download the content. To find these pictures, a location and data source need to be specified. I started searching for all content in an area and reviewing the results. Some of the higher quality results require payment. Data may be filtered by time period. It has been a valuable resource for researching southern Illinois history.

September 26, 2019

aerial photographs national archives 1937 flood