A wonderful and scarce pictorial map by the renowned White Mountains cartographer, adventurer and poet Franklin Leavitt.
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 rail links with coastal cities transformed the White Mountains into a major destination for artists and tourists. Over three decades Franklin Leavitt, a Lancaster, New Hampshire contractor, guide, would-be poet, and all-around “character” produced six charming maps to cater to the visitors flooding the region. All bear important stylistic similarities that render them engaging examples of folk cartography, including a lack of consistent scale or orientation, the pictorial depiction of local landmarks and history, and an emphasis on Leavitt’s own exploits.
Offered here is the very last of these maps, first published by Leavitt in 1882 (though bearing a copyright date of 1881), but this impression is from an edition issued by his son Victor in 1888. It depicts the region from Lake Winnipesaukee in the south to Berlin in the north, and from eastern Vermont all the way over to Conway. The central image of the White Mountains in profile is complemented by views of dozens of residences and hotels, vignettes of historical and legendary events (many involving the violent death of large mammals), four corner views of well-known waterfalls, and a small inset showing rail connections from Boston. Though crude in execution and unburdened by considerations of scale or orientation, the detailed depiction of the roads, railways and many hotels and resorts would have made it reasonably helpful to casual visitors and desirable as a souvenir… but useless or even dangerous to anyone using it as a guide to the back country.
Printed on very thin paper, it may have been intended to be folded, tipped into wraps and distributed to tourists. The present example was likely remaindered, as the old folds do not fit the dimensions of a pocket map. Tatham in fact tells us that “impressions of this state remained unsold well into the twentieth century” (p. 126).
David Cobb, New Hampshire Maps to 1900, #425. David Tatham, “Franklin Leavitt’s Pictorial Maps of the White Mountains,” in Prints of New England, ed. Georgia Brady Barnhill (1991), pp. 125-126, 129 (illustrating 1882 ed.), 131.
Extensive repairs and restoration, particularly along old folds. Lined on verso. Priced accordingly. Still quite displayable.