A rare and lovely plan giving an immensely detailed view of the natural and human geography of early 19th-century Duxbury, Massachusetts. Keyed symbols indicate and differentiate dwellings, meeting-houses, schools, mills and factories. Symbols and shading are employed to differentiate natural features such as hills, woodlands, wetlands, ponds and open beaches. Town boundaries are carefully delineated with respect to both length (in rods) and bearing.
The large number of wharves and relatively small number of industrial establishments serve to emphasize Duxbury’s maritime orientation in this era.
“The most remarkable period in Duxbury’s history, the shipbuilding era, began immediately after the Revolution. Following the Treaty of Paris, the newborn nation was granted fishing rights on the Grand Banks. Several families took advantage of the new opportunity and began to build large fishing schooners. Soon, as foreign nations began to ease trade restrictions, Duxbury mariners found that they could trade all over the world. The schooners built in the 1790s gave way to larger brigs and eventually three-masted ships. The builders of fishing vessels soon became owners of merchant fleets, and Duxbury prospered.
“By the 1840s, Duxbury boasted about 20 shipyards and was the largest producer of sailing vessels on the South Shore. With an average of ten vessels built every year between 1790-1830, the accomplishments of the Duxbury shipbuilding families rank among the more significant in Massachusetts maritime history.” (from web site of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society)
John Ford, Jr., the surveyor of this map, also produced a map of Marshfield in 1838.
Massachusetts town plans of the 1830s
This plan was produced in response to a March 1, 1830 Resolve of the Massachusetts General Court (legislature) “that the inhabitants of the City of Boston, and the several towns and districts in the Commonwealth, be, and they hereby are, required to make, or cause to be made… accurate plans of their respective towns or districts…” These would then be compiled into a single coherent map of Massachusetts, which would guide tax assessments, infrastructure improvements &c. The individual plans were to be quite detailed (1 inch to 100 rods, or about 3 inches to the mile), with respect to both town boundaries and to the natural and human geography. The map offered here conforms closely to these requirements.
Hundreds of town plans were produced in manuscript and filed with the state between 1830 and 1835. They were used by Simeon Borden as the raw material in compiling his Topographical Map of the State of Massachusetts. The quality of the raw surveys was so mixed, however, that Borden was compelled to go back into the field to re-survey many areas, and his Topographical Map was not published until 1844.
Many of the town plans were also printed and published in broadsheet format, and in some cases bound in to early town histories. They appear to have been privately published by individuals with some connection to the towns, and were usually printed by one of the Boston lithographic printing establishments—most often Pendleton’s, as is the case with the present map. The print runs must have been small and primarily for local consumption, as these plans are now quite scarce outside institutional settings.
Scarcity and references
OCLC gives examples at Boston Public Library, Harvard and the Massachusetts Historical Society, and another is held by the American Antiquarian Society. Not in Antique Map Price Record, Phillips’ List of Maps of America, or Rumsey, and a Google search yields no additional examples.
 Resolves of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, passed at the several sessions of the General Court, commencing May, 1828, and ending June, 1831. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1831, p. 270.
 These manuscript originals may be examined by the public at the Massachusetts State Archives on Columbia Point in Boston.
Long mended tear extending from lower margin 9” into printed image, two more tears extending into image from upper margin, moderate foxing throughout. It is possible that marker or other ink was used at a relatively recent date to reinforce the upper neat line, which is weakly printed on other impressions of the map I have seen. Still more than acceptable for a map of this genre.