Franklin Leavitt’s first map of the White Mountains, with a claim to being the first map of the region

Franklin Leavitt, guide / J. H. Bufford’s Lith., MAP OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS. [Lancaster, NH?], 1852.
Lithograph, 19”h x 34 ¾”w plus wide margins, uncolored. Mended cracks and tears, some paper losses replaced with small areas of image in pen-and-ink facsimile (including a ca. 2” x 2” area straddling the center of the lower neat line). Extensive reconstruction of margins. Lined on verso with heavy tissue. The work has been expertly done, and the map is eminently displayable.

A rare and wonderful 1852 pictorial promotional map of the White Mountains by Franklin Leavitt, being the first of several produced by him over three decades. Possibly the first map to focus on the White Mountains, but certainly one of the most desirable early images of the region.

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 rapid rail links with coastal cities transformed the White Mountains into a major tourist destination. Over three decades Franklin Leavitt, a Lancaster, New Hampshire contractor, guide, would-be poet, and all-around “character” produced five charming maps to cater to the visitors flooding the region. All bear important stylistic similarities that render them engaging examples of what might be called “folk cartography,” including a lack of consistent scale or orientation, the pictorial depiction of local landmarks and history, and some emphasis on Leavitt’s own exploits. The maps nonetheless would have been reasonably helpful to casual visitors and desirable as souvenirs, though useless or even dangerous to anyone using them as guides to the region’s rugged back country.

Offered here is Leavitt’s first map, published in 1852. It depicts the region bounded by the Lakes Region in the south, the Connecticut River in the west, Jefferson and Randolph along modern-day Route 2 in the north, and the Carter Range and Androscoggin River in the east (Leavitt’s indifference to scale and orientation make it hard to be precise, but roughly speaking the map is oriented with South at the top.) Watercourses are delineated by single lines, roads by double lines, and railroads by heavy black lines. Major mountains and ranges are depicted pictorially, and here again Leavitt’s indifference to scale and orientation evident: The precipitous of the peaks is exaggerated; their placement on the map bears only a loose relationship to their geographical locations; and Cannon Mountain (labeled simply “The Old Man of the Mountain”) and Mount Carter appear as high or higher than Mount Washington.

The map also features information of particular interest to tourists, including the locations of major hotels and inns such as the Crawford House and Mount Washington House (now the Mount Washington Hotel); a table of distances; and the locations of famous “sights” including the Flume and the Old Man of the Mountain. Enhancing the visual appeal are views of two of the region’s lodging establishments, the Station House in Gorham and the rather grand-looking Crawford House at the head of Crawford Notch.

It is worth noting that Leavitt’s has a claim to being the first map to focus on the White Mountains, the primary competitor being Conant’s Map of the Mountain & Lake Regions of New-Hampshire.

I have handled perhaps a dozen Leavitt maps over the years, and one broadside of his god-awful poetry, but I find no record of this 1852 map having appeared on the antiquarian market. It is also rare in institutional collections, with Cobb and OCLC between them recording but eight examples in American libraries.

A rare and wonderful piece of cartographic Americana, with a case for being a landmark in the mapping of the White Mountains.

Bent, Bibliography of the White Mountains, p. 84.[3] Cobb, New Hampshire Maps, #203 (American Antiquarian, Dartmouth, Library of Congress, New Hampshire Historical). David Tatham, “Franklin Leavitt’s Pictorial Maps of the White Mountains,” in Prints of New England, ed. Georgia Brady Barnhill (1991), pp. 112-115 (fig. 6.3). As of August 2021 OCLC lists holdings at the American Antiquarian Society, Boston Public Library, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Dartmouth, Harvard, New Hampshire Historical, and the Peabody Essex Museum. All of Leavitt’s maps, along with biographical information, may be viewed on the “Franklin Leavitt Maps” page of the “White Mountain History” web site.