The decade of the 1850s marked a new high-water mark of American map publishing, with thousands of large-scale national, state, county, city and town maps issued, primarily by publishers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. With one exception, all the New England States were mapped by Henry Francis Walling of New York, whose work was cartographically advanced though rather lacking in ornament. This striking map of Connecticut, compiled by Griffith Morgan Hopkins and published by Richard Clark and Robert and George Tackabury, is not quite the technical peer of Walling’s work but is a far more attractive production.
The map’s large scale enabled Hopkins to depict enormous detail, including roads, railroads and the Farmington Canal; the locations of grist and saw mills, churches, schools and post offices; and (in less-populated areas) thousands of individual dwellings and public buildings. A variety of shadings and hachuring delineate the varied topography of hills, lakes, streams and wetlands, while extensive soundings and other hydrographic data from the U.S. Coast Survey line the coast of Long Island Sound. The map’s visual appeal and informational value are greatly enhanced by nine inset plans of cities and towns, a table of populations, an ornate title block with elegant calligraphy and a pictorial cartouche bearing the state seal, a lavish foliate border, and above all, the vibrant pastel color scheme.
It is not one hundred percent clear how Hopkins constructed the map, though vital clues are offered by the subtitle, which reads “Compiled from new and accurate surveys of each county, and the United States trigonometrical survey of Long Island Sound”. Regarding the “surveys of each county”, in the 1850s every Connecticut town had been mapped at large scale; indeed, Hopkins himself had mapped Litchfield County, with his work subsequently published by Richard Clark, while Clark had also published a map of Fairfield County. My best guess is that Hopkins compiled the state map from the individual county maps, rectifying inconsistencies to the best of his ability without breaking his budget.
The “trigonometrical survey of Long Island Sound” had been conducted by the United States Coast Survey. This “trigonometrical” survey employed advanced instruments and careful astronomical observations to establish precisely-located control points, from which terrestrial observations and trigonometric calculations were used to develop a “triangulation” along the coast. Details were then filled in between the points in the triangulation, based on eye sketches and less-rigorous surveys using the most traditional compass-and-chain technique. Hopkins would have merged the Coast Survey’s superb maps of the Connecticut coast with his compilation of the county maps, no doubt favoring the Coast Survey when the sources conflicted.
The map was first issued in 1859. This is the second edition, the only known difference being a change of date in the title block.
G. M. Hopkins
Philadelphia civil engineer and surveyor Griffith Morgan Hopkins, Jr. began his career in the mid-1850s conducting surveys for wall maps of cities and counties as far afield as Maine and Ohio. In 1865, he and his brother Henry founded G. M. Hopkins Company at 320 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. Just at this time, the market was shifting from large, unwieldy and fragile wall maps to the more-manageable atlas format, and the Hopkins brothers followed suit. Over more than three decades they published dozens of atlases of counties, cities and towns in the New England, mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states. Griffith retired in 1900 and Henry in 1907, but the firm continued in operation until 1943, when it was purchased by the Franklin Survey Company.
Thompson, Maps of Connecticut, #181. Oddly, not in Phillips, Maps of America.
Conserved, with varnish removed; cracks, tears and minor losses repaired at top; and linen and edging replaced. Now about excellent for this type of map.