Southern California Edison Co. Transmission System Map, 1947

Historians often describe the growing cities of the 19th and 20th centuries in imperial terms. Metropolitan powers like New York, Chicago, and later Los Angeles reached out across rural landscapes to gather resources to fuel their development.

Consider this 1947 map of transmission lines linking the Los Angeles area to hydroelectric projects in northern California and Nevada.

What relationships did these systems establish between urban and rural communities? What kind of booster visions, and ideas about land and water, conjured the plans into being? 

What legal rights, and political powers, made it possible for a city more than a thousand miles away to capture the energy-generating potential of the Colorado River and the Sierra Nevada snowpack?


Claude G. Putnam, “Southern California Edison Company. Electric Generating Stations and Major Transmission System in Central and Southern California.” Southern California Edison, 1947, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, Stanford University.

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