Landmark Appalachian Mountain Club map of the White Mountains

Forbes Co., MAP OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE Scale 1/100,000. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1887.
Lithograph printed in brown with black overprinting, 22 ½”h x 21 ½”w at neat line plus title, legend and wide margins. Folder and tipped into a tan card stock folder with title printed on front. Minor separations at four fold intersections, small tear where tipped to folder, and a few unobtrusive pencil annotations. Folder with minor soiling and two short tears to upper edge of back cover. Still, very good for such a fragile production.

An 1887 Appalachian Mountain Club pocket map of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the first of many such maps issued by the AMC for use in the field.

The map is a detailed picture of the natural and human geography of the White Mountains near the end of the 19th century. The map depicts the region’s complex network of river and stream systems, and the topography is delineated by careful hachuring with summit elevations given in feet (That of Mt. Washington is given as 6293 feet, five higher than is now known.) Superimposed on this are the locations of towns, the routes of roads and railroads, and the names of many of the hotels (“houses”) serving the growing stream of visitors to the region.

A printed note inside the front wrap indicates that the map was issued at scales of 1/100,000 and 1/150,000, the present example being the former. The note goes on to explain that the map was constructed using the AMC’s own data for summit locations and elevations, printed in black, while

“the remaining details necessary for a popular map have been supplied according to whatever information was immediately at hand; and such details have been printed in a different color—brown—in order to emphasize the fact that the topographical department of the Club assumes no responsibility for them.”

The map contains not one but two interesting cartographic experiments, though neither was terribly successful. Adam Apt describes the first as a “novel system of mountain nomenclature” explaining it as follows:

“[It] had been devised by the AMC in one of its first meetings, in April 1876. In this system… the entire state of New Hampshire was divided into 26 regions with letter designations, and then major peaks were identified alphabetically within numbered areas inside each region, with subsidiary designations for subsidiary peaks. In this system, Mt. Washington is peak F6.1, being the highest peak in area 6 of New Hampshire region F.” (Apt, p. 14)

The other experiment is the use of tiny symbols to differentiate “summits in general” from “summits with one side precipitous”, “summits with one side nearly flat”, “knobs on crests”, “knobs at angles in crests” and “shoulders”. The symbols are too small and the printing too muddy for the system to be really useful, and, like the system of mountain nomenclature, it rapidly fell out of use. 

The Appalachian Mountain Club
The AMC was founded in 1876 with the mission of exploring the White Mountains, advancing scientific inquiry, issuing maps and other publications, and fostering recreational use of the region while advancing its preservation. Over the years it has expanded throughout the Northeast and now has some 275,000 members (myself included) in twelve chapters from Maine to Washington, D.C.

The AMC’s best-known publication is the White Mountain Guide, first published in 1907 as Guide to the Paths and Camps in the White Mountains, with the 30th edition published in 2017. It also has a long history of issuing separately-published guide maps, of which the 1887 map offered here was the very first.

Apt, Maps of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 1677-1988, #20. Bent, Bibliography of the White Mountains, p. 87 (recording an edition issued in Sweetser’s White Mountain Handbook). Cobb, New Hampshire Maps to 1900, #418. OCLC 14960028 et al, giving numerous institutional holdings.