A landmark 1826 map New England

Nathan Hale (“Compiled and published by”) / J. V. N. Throop (engraver), A Map of the New England States Maine New Hampshire Vermont Massachusetts Rhode Island Connecticut With the adjoining parts of New York & Lower Canada. Boston, 1826.
Engraving, 44 3/8”h x 39 1/4”w plus margins, outline color by county. Segmented and laid on original linen with green silk selvage. Verso with ink inscription of “Geo. Bliss Jn. Springfield Mass.” Housed in original slipcase bearing ink inscription of “R. Walcott Cambridge Mass.”

A most important 1826 map of New England by Nathan Hale, being the first significant large-scale map of New England issued in the 19th century. As such, it is best viewed as the successor to Thomas Jefferys’ Map of the Most Inhabited Part of New England (1755), the great regional map of the 18th century.

Hale’s map is extremely informative, particularly regarding the human geography of the region. It shows state, county and township boundaries; major topographical features; and significant cultural and economic resources such as canals, roads, colleges, churches and manufacturing centers (Particularly dear to this writer’s heart is a lead mine identified in little Southampton, Mass.) The political information appears to be relatively up to date; in Massachusetts, for example, one finds Hanson (est. 1820); North Bridgewater, now known as Brockton (est. 1821); and East Bridgewater (est. 1823).

Offered here is an example of the 1826 first issue of the map. It must have met with substantial success, as it was reissued in 1827, 1830, 1834, 1835, 1849 and 1853.  At least one of these later states included substantial revisions: the 1849 edition includes the note “Corr. By the addition of the railroads, new towns, & other public improvements, to Mar. 1849.”

The verso bears the ownership inscription of “Geo. Bliss Jn. Springfield Mass.” This is likely the businessman and politican George Bliss (1793-1873), who trained as a lawyer before serving terms in both the Massachusetts Senate and House and Senate, serving as President of the former in 1835 and Speaker of the latter in 1853. He also served for some time as President of the Western Railroad between Albany and Worcester and brought that project to a successful completion. He likely knew mapmaker Nathan Hale, who was a prominent figure in Boston and for a time a railroad executive.

Nathan Hale
Hale (1784-1863) was born in Westhampton, Mass. but spent much of his life in Boston. Something of a polymath, his career spanned the teaching of mathematics, private law practice, journalism (as founder of the Daily Advertiser), book publisher and civil engineering. He also helped establish the Boston and Worcester Rail Road and was its first President from 1831 to 1849. His father Enoch Hale was a brother of the famous martyred patriot, and his mother was Octavia Throop, so there is likely a family connection with the map’s engraver J. V. N. Throop. This writer knows of no other cartographic productions by Hale.

The map does not itself reveal Hale’s sources for his map of New England, but an ad in the September 11, 1826 Boston Commercial Gazette describes it as “compiled from a careful comparison of all the published maps and charts, and all the surveys, drawings, and other documents which would aid the undertaking, known to the compiler, in the public offices, or in the hands of individuals, and from personal examinations of many parts of the country.” One wonders, however, about these “personal examinations.” Hale was a busy man with many professional commitments, and it is hard to imagine him finding the time to conduct much in the way of fieldwork. Though the map itself is silent on the topic, it is conceivable that he commissioned surveyors to fill in occasional gaps in existing maps… though this would have quickly become prohibitively expensive.

Hale likely took as his starting point the numerous important official state maps published in the 1790s-1810s—Whitelaw’s map of Vermont (1796 and later), Osgood Carleton’s maps of Maine and Massachusetts (1801), Warren and Gillette’s of Connecticut (1811), and Carrigain’s of New Hampshire (1816).  Assuming this is correct, he must have taken great pains to harmonize state boundaries and to ensure the map was updated.  For example, as mentioned above he introduced a number of newly-incorporated Massachusetts towns, and a comparison with the Carrigain map shows substantial changes to town boundaries and names, the addition of new towns and elimination of gores, and the addition of numerous mountains, railroads &c.

In all, a very nice example of a most important map of New England.

Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 472; Rumsey 2504.   A brief-but-useful biography of Hale may be found in the finding aid for the Hale Family papers at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.


Map with even toning, minor scuffing, corners of segments lifting in places fraying of silk edging, and a few sections of selvage perished. Slipcase damaged but holding (barely). Very good overall.