Historical GIS data for seven major American cities over one century of urban growth, 1830–1930

The Center for Population Economics has created a historical GIS data set for exploring and analyzing the urban health environments of seven major US cities—Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, Manhattan, and Philadelphia—from 1830 through 1930. The Historical Urban Ecological (HUE) data set includes ward boundary changes, street networks, and ward-level data on disease, mortality, crime, and other variables reported by municipal departments for each study city. These materials constitute a framework on which users can build additional spatial data and conduct a wide range of historical inquiries.

The HUE data set was produced for the Early Indicators of Later Work Levels, Disease and Death project, funded by the National Institute of Aging under Program Project Grant P01 AG10120. Researchers selected the HUE study cities and variables in order to best analyze the effects of intra-urban health disparities and public health interventions on individual mortality and longevity as observed through the Union Army and US Colored Troops cohorts. The general utility and diversity of the HUE resources, however, enable applications well beyond the Early Indicators project.

The HUE data set is provided to the public and interested researchers for download.


The full set of HUE ward-level data is available for download as digitized. Broken down by city, these files are Excel format copies of the original historical documents used to create the HUE data set.


The historical GIS files including ward boundaries, street centerlines, and urban sanitation systems are available for download in shapefile and geodatabase formats. Complete copies of HUE data tables are also available here in Excel format.


Descriptions of the HUE GIS files , historical sources, and assorted methodologies developed for the Early Indicators project, such as historical geocoding with the HUE street centerlines, can be viewed here.

Created by the Center for Population Economics (CPE) for the Early Indicators Project, 2013
Funded by the National Institute of Aging, Program Project Grant P01 AG10120