Mapping Boston’s Entire History

Ed McCarthy grew up in Boston and is now a history geek. McCarthy wondered why it should be so difficult to get a geographic understanding of where Boston’s many historic sites once stood. There had to be a way to combine a literary and visual vehicle to the past. McCarthy needed a map. More specifically, he needed to create a map.

The result is a series of maps that depict different sections of Boston, over a time span of nearly 400 years. When viewed on an individual basis, any one of McCarthy’s maps delivers a block-by-block recreation of a given section of the city in a specific era—where, for example, the British burial ground was located in American Revolution-era Boston. But when viewed as a comprehensive work, as McCarthy intends them to be upon completion, his maps effectively chart the development of Boston over nearly four centuries. It’s an incredibly informative collection, the work of someone who clearly cares very deeply about his city.

The project is even more impressive when you learn that Ed McCarthy is not a professional cartographer. He also is not a programmer. In fact, he is a veteran EMT and ambulance driver in Boston. Yet his maps are impressive.

McCarthy’s maps are only available as large, printed maps… so far. Operating solely by word of mouth—although another EMS colleague is working with him on building a website—McCarthy has sold 130 maps to date, at $100 a pop. Hanging in bars and living rooms around Boston, even a few gift shops, the maps have become a minor hit among his extended network of proud Bostonians.

“I’m an EMT, I’m not a businessman. But I’m making these and I enjoy making them, and I’m never going to stop until I get the full city done,” he said.

You can read more about Ed McCarthy and his maps at http://www.wired.com/2014/10/ed-mccarthy-boston-history-mapper/ and at http://patch.com/massachusetts/westwood/the-map-maker-westwood-resident-draws-history.

You can read more about his maps at http://www.historicalboston.com although the site is obviously still being developed and presently has a lot of broken links.

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