Henry F. Walling’s map of Plymouth County Massachusetts

Henry F. Walling Sup[erintenden]t of the State Map / Engraved, Printed, Colored & Mounted by H.F. Walling & Co., MAP OF THE COUNTY OF PLYMOUTH MASSACHUSETTS. FROM ACTUAL SURVEYS UNDER THE DIRECTION OF HENRY F. WALLING SUPT. OF THE STATE MAP 1857. Boston and New York: D. R. Smith & Co., 1857.
Lithograph on four sheets joined, 60"h x 58"w at neat line plus margins, original wash and outline color retouched. Professionally restored. Backed with modern replacement linen and mounted on early roller at top (lower roller no longer present). Toning, some residual staining visible, some closed cracks and tears. Losses reinstated primarily in margins but touching border in a few places.

A monumental and richly-informative 1857 wall map of Plymouth County in southeastern Massachusetts, known today for both its ancient towns, historical sites, and spectacular beaches.

Published in 1857, this is by far the largest and most detailed map of Plymouth County produced to date. The region’s hilly topography is shown by hachuring and shading, and the coastline, waterways, ponds and wetlands are delineated with care. Town boundaries are indicated by heavy outline color, and an effort has been made to show every road and rail line. Arguably the map’s greatest contribution, however, lies in its identification by name of many thousands of landowners and residents, as well as schools, businesses, and places of worship. To this are added dozens of inset maps of population centers, a “Geological Map of Plymouth County”, pictorial vignettes of area landmarks, business directories, a table of distances, and even a vignette at upper right of the “Landing of the Pilgrims 1620”.

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 and the Mid Atlantic region, including the map of Plymouth County offered here. 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.

Phillips, A List of Maps of America, p. 716. Stephenson, Land Ownership Maps, #319. For background on Walling, see Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, chap. 20, “Henry Francis Walling” as well as Michael Buehler, “Henry F. Walling and the Mapping of New England’s Towns, 1849-1857”, The Portolan, no. 71 (Spring 2008), pp. 22-33.