A 1937 map of the hi-desert area one year after Joshua Tree National Monument was created (it became a Park in 1994). Click image to enlarge.

Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection:

The map here makes Joshua Tree and its surroundings look pretty cool. There are palms everywhere on the map—among them, presumably, Washingtonia filifera or the desert palm, the only true native. The Painted Canyon is visible here, as are the Cottonwood, Eagle, Pinto and Little San Bernardino Mountains. The Colorado River Aqueduct crosses the map as a white line; construction had finished shortly before the rendering, and water began flowing toward Los Angeles in 1939.

The few humans depicted here are mostly tourists and miners. At the time, the land was only just beginning to draw developers out from L.A. Homesteaders had begun settling the area in the teens, but they were always few in number. Even as late as 1941, the permanent population of Joshua Tree town was just 49 folks with 22 buildings. Keys Ranch (near the top center of the map) is where early settlers Bill and Frances Keys spent six decades—though Bill sat in San Quentin for eight of those years for murdering his neighbor in a land dispute…

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