The map depicts a roughly 14-mile-square area centered on New York City Hall in Lower Manhattan. At the time New York City itself was confined to Manhattan Island, with a population just over 800,000. But the city was already an economic and cultural powerhouse, its growth fueled by the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the proliferation of rail lines, the completion of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, and the arrival of tens of thousands of Irish immigrants. By choosing to place City Hall in the center of the map, Walling was emphasizing that the city already was in many ways the region’s beating heart, pumping people and goods on the great network of railroads running in and out of it in all directions.
Of course New York City is not the only story here. The map shows that many of the same factors were driving development across the East River in Brooklyn, at the time America’s third-largest city, and across the Hudson in Hoboken, Jersey City and the other cities of Bergen County. Further afield, the railroad was bringing growth to smaller cities like those along the New York & New Haven line in Westchester County and the New Jersey Line in northeastern New Jersey. All the same, it’s striking to see just how much open space remained so close to the city, particularly in outlying areas of Kings and Queens Counties that today are densely populated.
Walling manages to cram an enormous amount of information into the map, though sometimes at the expense of legibility and with relatively little attention to the region’s natural topography (For instance, neither the rough terrain of Upper Manhattan nor or the long ridge of Brooklyn Heights are shown.) For Walling, as for us moderns, the real landscape of New York is the built landscape of streets, rail lines, piers, buildings and homes. Even in the less-densely populated areas, he takes advantage of the elbow room to identify by name thousands of residences; factories, mills, hotels and other businesses; hospitals, churches and schools; cemeteries and parks; and even the several forts and batteries then considered vital to protect the Hudson River and its approaches.
Henry F. Walling (1825-1888)
A native of Burrillville, Rhode Island, Walling began his career as a librarian at the Providence Athenaeum. Along the way he studied mathematics and surveying—whether he was formally trained or an autodidact is not clear—and in 1846 went to work in the office of Providence civil engineer Barrett Cushing, where he soon became a partner. With Cushing, he published his first map (of Rhode Island) in 1846 and another of Providence in 1849, before going out on his own and moving to Boston in or around 1850. Over the next few years he published dozens of large-format “wall maps” of New England towns, and in 1855 he was named Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Map.
Walling moved to New York City in 1856, where he operated H.F. Walling’s Map Establishment first at 90 Fulton Street and then at 356, 358 and 360 Pearl Street, where this “Map of the City of New-York and Environs” was produced. Best as I can tell, this was a vertically-integrated venture, bringing under one corporate roof the functions of map surveying, drafting, printing, coloring, mounting and publishing. Over the next several years he issued dozens of mammoth wall maps of states and counties in New England the Mid Atlantic region. Some time in the 1860s he entered into a productive partnership with Ormando Gray. As tastes changed, they shifted to atlas publication, issuing numerous state atlases and an atlas of Canada well into the 1870s.
More or less simultaneously, from 1867-1870 Walling held the chair of civil engineering at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Around 1880 he took a position with the United States Coast Survey, then in 1883 moved on to the U.S. Geological Survey, where he worked on the topographical survey of the state of Massachusetts—the first of its kind–until his death in 1888.
In all, Walling was one of the most accomplished and interesting American mapmakers of the mid-late 19th century, not least because of his prolific output: Between 1846 and 1888 he produced perhaps 150 large-scale, separately-issued maps of American towns and counties; several seminal state maps; numerous state and county atlases; and many maps for the U.S. Geological Survey. But arguably his greatest impact was as a serial innovator. He helped pioneer new models of partnership between commercial, local, state and Federal mapping enterprises; demonstrated that commercial mapmakers could produce high-quality, low-cost maps by drawing on the work of government scientific agencies; was a leading advocate of applying geodetic survey methods and tools to local and regional surveys; and catalyzed the first topographical (i.e., three dimensional) survey of an American state.
In all, a most impressive map, in stellar condition, of New York City and surroundings on the eve of the Civil War.
Haskell, Manhattan Maps, #1096. Rumsey, #3503. OCLC 23156083 et al, giving holdings at (Brooklyn Public Library, Columbia, New Jersey Historical, New York Historical, New York Public, New York State Library, Stanford and Yale. Not in Phillips, Maps of America. Though not noted in any of the bibliographies, Brooklyn Historical Society holds at least five copies of the map.
Walter Ristow’s, American Maps and Mapmakers dedicates all of chapter 20 to a discussion of Walling’s career. For a discussion of Walling’s city and town maps, see Buehler, “Henry F. Walling and the Mapping of New England’s Towns” in The Portolan no. 71 (Spring 2008), pp. 22-33.