Lovely “schoolgirl map” of the United States

Hannah B. French, UNITED STATES. New Hampton Female Seminary, 1830.
Ink and watercolor on wove paper, 20”h x 28 ¾”w at neatline. With blue silk selvage on left and right edges and mounted on early rollers.

An attractive and detailed manuscript map of the United States, drawn by a New Hampshire schoolgirl.

In the 19th-century the copying of maps was an important technique of geographic education, and such maps—often known as “schoolgirl maps”–are frequently encountered on the antiquarian market.  The great majority were quite small, executed in simple outline, largely unadorned, but a small fraction are highly decorative, featuring careful draftsmanship and calligraphy, liberal use of color, and occasionally graphic or symbolic elements. This example, produced at the New Hampton (New Hampshire) Female Seminary, is one of the more refined examples I have encountered.

The map is rather detailed, showing state and territorial boundaries and capitals, other major cities and towns, waterways, and mountain ranges in the archaic “molehill” style. It is dated 1830, when maps by Bradley, Melish, Tanner and others would have been available as sources. However, a comparison with these suggests that Ms. French worked from some other prototype, as of yet unidentified. Based on the presence of the State of Missouri and the Arkansas Territory with its original expansive borders, this prototype was likely issued between 1820 and 1824.

The New Hampton Female Seminary appears to be long-since defunct, so it has not been possible to identify the mapmaker in school records. A less-than-exhaustive search turns up three women bearing the name “Hannah B. French,” all of whom passed away in New Hampshire between 1857 and 1875. None however was of school age in 1830 when this map was produced, and it is also possible that our Ms. French was a teacher who produced the map for classroom use.


Fragile but still very attractive, with bright outline color. Cracks and tears reinforced on verso at an early date. Chip to right border not affecting map, crudely reinstated at an early date. Long diagonal crease across lower-right corner.