The “Famous Berkshire Hills”

Walter Watson, C[ivil] E[ngineer] / Berkshire Life Insurance Co., RAILWAY AND HIGHWAY MAP of the FAMOUS BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONÂ…. Pittsfield, MA; 1883/1896.
Lithograph, 29.5"h x 22"w plus margins, printed color
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A most decorative promotional map of one of New England’s great destinations.

Watson’s map offers a very detailed view of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, including its towns and their boundaries, topographical features, and roads and railroads. The borders bear extensive text promoting the region in general and the Life Insurance Company in particular, and pictorial vignettes provide views of Mt. Greylock and the Company’s offices in Pittsfield. To this day Berkshire Life maintains its corporate headquarters in that city, though they are now located along Route 7, somewhat to the south of downtown.

The map was drawn by Walter Watson, a civil engineer resident in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and first issued in 1883. This second edition of 1896 has symbols added in red to identify roads, rail stations, schools &c. Watson also made a map of the city that first appeared in the 1893 Pittsfield Directory.

The Harvard University Gazette of Oct. 24, 2002 asserts the map is “widely regarded as the first free road map ever distributed (by the Berkshire Life Insurance Company), mainly for touring bicyclists.” If that is the case, visitors were in for a surprise: The map gives the impression that one can easily plan a pleasant day trip that doesn’t requiring much exertion, whereas the reality is that the Berkshire Hills are, well, hilly!

References
OCLC #17763677 et al, giving numerous locations. Rumsey #8016 (1896 edition). Not in Phillips, List of Maps of America.

Condition

Folds as issued, else excellent