The first printed map of Leominster Massachusetts

Pendleton’s Lithography, Boston, MAP OF LEOMINSTER CONTAINING 16602 ACRES. Leominster: Jonas Kendall, Charles Grout, Levi Nichols, David Wilder, Jos. G. Kendall, 1830.
Separately-issued lithograph, 25”h x 19”w at neat line plus margins, uncolored. Expertly restored, with residual toning, discoloration, and soiling; several expertly-mended horizontal tears; and margins reinstated all around.
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A fine and extremely rare map depicting the human and natural geography of the town of Leominster in Worcester County, Massachusetts.

The map provides an immensely detailed view of the town in the early 1800s, including the its boundaries, the road network, and features of the natural topography (with symbols for woodlands, and shading employed to indicate ponds, waterways and areas of elevation). The large scale of 100 rods:inch also enables it to identify residences, meeting houses and schools, and and a number of mills along the Nashua River. The map is adorned by a lovely little “View of the Common, from Near the Bridge,” a feature rarely found on the many maps of Massachusetts towns produced at the time.

A table at lower right provides additional geographic and economic information: At the time Leominster boasted among other things a population of 1850 10 school houses, 28 mills (including 9 “for polishing combs!”), and “the Monoosnok Hills contain[ing] inexhaustible supplies of the very best Granite.” Rail connections to Boston and Worcester would arrive just a few years after this map was made, and Leominster eventually grew into a regional manufacturing and transportation hub.

Historical background
This map 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…”[1] These plans were then to be compiled into a single coherent map of Massachusetts, which would guide tax assessments, infrastructure improvements &c.[2]

The plans were required to be quite large scale (1 inch to 100 rods, or about 3 inches to the mile), indicate the length and bearing of town boundaries, and provide much information about cultural and economic resources such as meetinghouses, schools, mills, mines &c.

Hundreds of towns were surveyed, usually by local surveyors hired by committees appointed by the individual towns. Maps were then drafted and filed in manuscript with the state between 1830 and 1835.[3] In Leominster, for example, the work was overseen by a committee of five men, whose names—unusually—are listed on this map. Many of the plans were also published in broadside format, often being reprinted for inclusion in early town histories. In most cases, as with the present map, these are the first printed maps of their respective towns.

The exact circumstances of publication are unclear, but it has been suggested that the state provided the towns a modest subsidy of $150 to defray the costs of dissemination.[4] They were usually printed by one of the Boston lithographic printing establishments, most commonly Pendleton’s (as in the case of this map of Leominster), with a substantial number printed by T. Moore’s Lithography and the firm of Senefelder. The print runs must have been small and primarily for local consumption, as these plans are generally quite scarce and in some cases extraordinarily rare.

The maps submitted to the State were employed 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.

References
OCLC #793032753 (Harvard) and 1252289969 (Harvard again!)  Additional holdings at the American Antiquarian Society and Yale.  Not in Phillips, List of Maps of America.

Endnotes
[1] 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.

[2] This was in fact the second such effort in Massachusetts: in the 1790s towns had been similarly required to submit plans, which were then compiled by Osgood Carleton to yield the first official state map: A Map of Massachusetts Proper Compiled from Actual Surveys made by Order of the General Court (1802).

[3] These manuscript originals may be examined by the public at the Massachusetts State Archives on Columbia Point in Boston. However, for reasons unknown the Archives do not possess the original manuscript map of Reading.

[4] Unpublished conversation with David A. Cobb, Curator of the Harvard Map Collection, July 2006.