Rare 1853 plan of Lexington, Massachusetts by Henry F. Walling

H[enry] F[rancis] Walling / A. Kollner’s Lithography, Phila[Delphia], Map of the TOWN of LEXINGTON MIDDLESEX COUNTY MASS. SURVEYED BY ORDER OF THE TOWN by H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer 81 Washington St. Boston. [Boston?], 1853.

Lithograph, 35 ¼”h x 28 ¾”w at neat line plus good margins, original outline and wash color retouched. Minor soiling, repairs and restorations along old folds and in margins, including tiny areas of image in facsimile. Some discoloration along folds. Name of one landowner added in pencil at right-center. Still, quite good for a mid-19th-century wall map, most of suffered badly from being varnished and backed with linen.

A rare, attractive and terrifically informative 1853 map of Lexington, Massachusetts by Henry Frances Walling, arguably the preeminent American commercial mapmaker in the mid-19th century. 

This very rare map depicts Lexington at a terrific level of detail for the time. On the main map, Walling the length and bearing of each of the town’s boundary lines; uses a range of symbols to indicate hills, wetlands and woodlands; delineates school districts (with dashed line and wash color), the road network and the line of the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad (opened 1846); and uses tiny squares to locate residences, with many of their occupants named. An inset plan at a larger scale provides excellent detail for Lexington Village, including the Monument on the Common commemorating the skirmish that took place there on the morning of April 19, 1775 and kicked off the Revolutionary War.

It is worth comparing John Groves Hales’ 1830 Plan of the Town of Lexington in the County of Middlesex, which was the first published map of the town. Though the format of the two maps is similar, a close comparison indicates that, rather than using Hales’ work as a base map, Walling conducted his own surveys. This comparison also reveals that in the intervening years the town had not grown overmuch; indeed, Charles Hudson’s History of the Town of Lexington (p. 238)records its 1830 population as 1543, while by 1850—even with the arrival of the Railroad–it had increased only to 1893 (though Walling’s map gives a figure of 1894). Holding things back, I presume, was a lack of the significant water power that propelled so much economic growth elsewhere in the region, not least in neighboring Waltham.

Henry Francis Walling (1825-88)
This map is just one of several dozen large-scale maps of Massachusetts towns surveyed and published by Walling in the first half of the 1850s, including no fewer than 15 in 1851 alone.  Walling was perhaps the most accomplished and interesting American mapmaker of the mid-late 19th century, in no small part because of his prolific output:  Between 1848 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.

OCLC 56833719 (Boston Athenaeum, Harvard), 317759120 (Boston Public, Mass. Historical), and 1252272644 (Harvard). Not in Phillips, List of Maps of America.

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” inThe Portolan no. 71 (Spring 2008), pp. 22-33.