1938 San Francisco in Google Earth

Introduced in Google Earth 5 a few years ago, historical imagery remains one of the neatest features of Google Earth that many people don’t know about it. In the time since the initial historical imagery release, Google has updated quite often with additional imagery. Much of the “new” imagery is fairly recent, though we’ve seen a few major historical additions such as the huge batch of imagery from London in 1945 a few years ago.
Recently, thanks to the work of aerial photographer Harrison Ryker decades ago, Google has released an amazing collection of historical imagery in San Francisco from 1938.


The imagery was captured by a group of pilots that made a variety of north-to-south runs across the city, ultimately helping to create 164 large prints of the city. Because they were relatively low to the ground, the resulting imagery is amazingly sharp (roughly 1 meter resolution), considering it was captured more than 70 years ago!
To see it for yourself, simply fly over to San Francisco and slide the historical imagery tool back to 1938. You can also load up this KML file, which should take care of both steps for you.
(via Google Lat Long blog)

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Seems like Google screwed up in Myanmar.
    Zoom in to Paiktheyet in Myanmar (20°50’N 93°E)you can see the River about 50 km to the East of that City again in the Mountains.

  2. that good article .. wow … if more than 20 years ago we had the image quality … as will be now with the advancement of technology ..? very good article ..
    greetings ..

  3. Stannous Flouride says:

    You might enjoy this album of side-by-side comparisons of SF neighborhoods from the 1938 aerial map with the same locations on Google Earth.

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