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Reviewed by:
  • Atlas of Nebraska by J. Clark Archer et al.
  • Russell S. Kirby and John T. Bauer
Atlas of Nebraska. J. Clark Archer, Richard Edwards, Leslie M. Howard, Fred M. Shelley, Donald A. Wilhite, and David J. Wishart. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. Pp. xxii+ 214, color maps, illustrations, photographs, charts, graphs, bibliography. $34.95, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8032-4939-4.

The Atlas of Nebraska joins a family of atlases focusing on individual US states. State atlases vary in content and format, some taking a broad historical perspective, some concerned more with the physical environment, and others with sociodemographics, with or without narrative text. This atlas attempts to cover the broad range of mappable topics of interest. The Atlas of Nebraska was designed to parallel the content and structure of the previously published Atlas of the Great Plains (University of Nebraska Press, 2011), with which it shares two coauthors and a similar look and feel.

Following a brief introduction, the atlas consists of six chapters, beginning with the physical and biological environment. Successive chapters examine the history, population, and agriculture of the state. These are followed by chapters on urban and economic patterns, and culture, services, and politics.

While each chapter covers the usual contents related to its topic, the authors have selected features of broad interest. For example, in the chapter on physical and biological environment, readers will find a plate devoted to precipitation maps for the highest and lowest annual rainfall since 1990, as well as maps and photographs related to the reintroduction [End Page 292] of wildlife into the state as part of environmental conservation efforts. The chapter on the history of Nebraska includes maps of pre-European settlement patterns as well as reproductions from early scientific expeditions and the Charles C. Royce atlas of land cessions (Bureau of American Ethnography, 1896–97).

Perhaps the congressional electoral votes on the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1856) and the vote on Nebraska statehood (1867) receive more attention than necessary, but these are important political events in the state's history. Quite a bit of attention is also accorded to the process of land alienation, the final historical topic covered.

The chapter on population includes a series of decennial census maps of county population density. A summary map shows the census year of maximum population, but it would also be useful to provide a contemporary map of recent population changes. Striking changes in the age distribution and ancestry of the population occurred during the twentieth century, with perhaps the most dramatic change occurring in the Hispanic population. The plates depicting proportion of land in farms provide a transition to the chapter on agriculture. By 2012 only eight counties had less than 50 percent of their land area in farms. Irrigation practices receive considerable attention, with a series of maps showing registered irrigation wells installed per decade, as well as the recent distribution of active wells and center-pivot irrigation systems. For environmental conservationists, the map of groundwater-level changes from pre-European settlement to 2015 is particularly striking; while there are a few small areas with rise of groundwater in feet, two large areas in western Nebraska show precipitous declines. These maps are followed by the expected series of maps showing distribution over time of cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, and harvested acres of corn, hay, oats, wheat, alfalfa, dry beans, grain sorghum, potatoes, soybeans, sugar beets, and sunflowers. Specialty crops and spatial patterns of complex production patterns receive little attention.

The chapter on urban and economic patterns begins with a series of maps of the location and size of urban places since 1870. These maps are overlaid on base maps showing waterways and county boundaries, but it would have been helpful to show major rail lines during each census year depicted. Several plates show distribution of employment by industry as well as population pyramids by county settlement class. The two largest urban areas, Omaha and Lincoln, receive more detailed treatment with [End Page 293] maps showing patterns of black and Hispanic population distributions, distribution of households with children, and housing values.

The chapter on culture, services, and politics begins with a series of county maps of religious adherence...