Leavitt’s pictorial map of the White Mountains

[Franklin] Leavitt / [engraved by A. C. Russell, Boston], LEAVITT'S MAP WITH VIEWS OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS NEW HAMPSHIRE., Lancaster, NH: Victor Leavitt, [1882]/1888 .
Electrotyped woodcut on very thin paper, 20"h x 30 1/4"w plus wide margins, uncolored

A scarce and wonderful 1888 pictorial promotional map of the White Mountains by Franklin Leavitt, being the final map produced by him over three decades.

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.

Offered here is the very last of these maps, first issued by Franklin in 1882 (though bearing a copyright date of 1881) and again by his son Victor in 1888 (this impression). Printed on very thin paper, it was presumably intended to be folded, tipped into wraps and distributed to tourists. The present example was likely remaindered, as it has never been folded and is a remarkable survival in this condition. Tatham in fact tells us that “impressions of this state remained unsold well into the twentieth century” (p. 126).

The map 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.

David Cobb, New Hampshire Maps to 1900, #425. David Tatham, “Franklin Leavitt’s Pictorial Maps of the White Mountains,” in Prints of New England, Georgia Brady Barnhill ed. (1991), pp. 125-126, 129 (illustrating 1882 edition), 131.


Toning at extremities and a small chip to lower-left corner, else excellent, particularly so for a map printed on such fragile paper