A wonderful 1859 pictorial map of the White Mountains from the famed series by White Mountain “character” Franklin Leavitt.
By the mid-19th century the transmission of the Romantic ethos across the Atlantic, the rise of a middle class with disposable income, and the development of rail links with coastal cities transformed the White Mountains into a major destination for artists and tourists. Over three decades Franklin Leavitt, a Lancaster, New Hampshire contractor, guide, would-be poet, and all-around “character” produced six charming maps to cater to the visitors flooding the region. All bear important stylistic similarities that render them engaging examples of folk cartography, including a lack of consistent scale or orientation, the pictorial depiction of local landmarks and history, and an emphasis on Leavitt’s own exploits. They also have a strikingly “persuasive” character, teasing the viewer with images of the many adventures and perils offered by the region, while comforting them that at the end of the day they could always retire to one of its many well-appointed hotels.
Offered here is Leavitt’s third map, engraved on wood by Samuel Brown and electrotyped by Dilligham and Bragg in Boston. It depicts the region from Lake “Winnipisiogee” in the south to Stark and Guild hall in the north, and from eastern Vermont all the way over to Conway. The central image of the White mountains in profile “as seen from the south east side” is complemented by detailed views of dozens of residences and hotels, vignettes of historical and legendary events, four corner views of well-known waterfalls, and a small inset “Map Showing Lines of Grand Trunk Railway of Canadas and United States.” The vignettes include foul-weather mishaps on Mt. Washington, the famed rock fall that killed the Willey family, “Old Crawford” dispatching a bear, and Leavitt himself being lowered “down the side of Mt. Willard, to go into the Devils Den.” Though crude in execution and unburdened by any commitment to cartographic accuracy, the detailed depiction of the roads, railways and many hotels and resorts would have made it reasonably helpful to casual visitors and desirable as a souvenir… but useless or even dangerous to anyone using it as a guide to the back country.
Printed on very thin paper, the map was originally folded, tipped into wraps and sold to tourists for dollar. According to Tatham, 480 were printed in 1859, the same number in 1860, and “doubtless” more thereafter. Tatham also claims this is “the most commonly encountered” of any of the Franklin Leavitt maps; however, while this may have been true when he wrote in 1991, it is certainly not true today: I have handled perhaps ten of Leavitt’s maps over 15 years, and this is the first of the 1859 edition to pass through my hands.
David Cobb, New Hampshire Maps to 1900, #252. David Tatham, “Franklin Leavitt’s Pictorial Maps of the White Mountains,” in Prints of New England, ed. Georgia Brady Barnhill (1991), pp. 119-120 (illus.)
Old folds flattened, some mends and fill to wear along folds, and some mends to short tears in upper and lower margins. Washed, with traces of staining very faintly visible in lower-left quadrant.