Rare, early view of Amherst, Mass. and Amherst College

[Drawn and] Published by John Bachelder / Ambrotype by E.W. Cowles / Lith. of Endicott & Co., N.Y., VIEW OF AMHERST, MASS. PUBLISHED BY JOHN BACHELDER., [No place, no date, but ca. 1855] .
Two-stone lithograph, 15 1/2"h x 25 7/8"w plus title and margins

A rare, appealing and early view of this important college town in western Massachusetts.

This panoramic view was drawn by Bachelder from an ambrotype by Amherst photographerr E.W. Cowles. It depicts the town as seen from the southeast, taking in the “Octagon” (originally the Amherst College observatory), the Congregational Church (purchased in 1867 by the College and now “College Hall”), and the Town Green flanked by fine residences and business blocks, all set against the bucolic backdrop of the Connecticut River Valley. Most of the College buildings extant at the time are not pictured on the main view, but the campus is depicted in the large vignette at lower right. As the college expanded, it came to encompass many of the open fields shown on the right side of the view. The other vignettes show the Mount Pleasant Institute and residences of area notables such as poetess Emily Dickinson and Edward Hitchcock, an eminent geologist and President of the College from 1845-54.

John Bachelder (1825-1894)
Bachelder was a painter, lithographer, photographer and historian who left an important and appealing body of work depicting sites and cities in the northeastern United States. Reps has this to say about his city views:

Bachelder, like Fitz Hugh Lane, Henry Walton, and Edwin Whitefield, drew his subjects as he looked at them from a distance and from nonimaginary viewpoints. We thus see his thriving New England industrial communities or ports as they might have appeared to an arriving stranger on the road to town catching his first glimpse of houses, factories, and churches extending across the horizon.

While only two of his views… make explicit that Bachelder drew them from photographic images, most of his urban scenes possess this kind of documentary character.” (Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America, p. 159)

Bachelder went on to become the preeminent 19th-century historian of the Battle of Gettysburg, producing both a series of maps and a spectacular bird’s-eye view that are still sought after today.

Reps #1335 (Amherst Historical Society only). Other examples are held in the Amherst College Archives and UMass Amherst Archives and Special Collections (OCLC #48050478 lists a single example at an unspecified location in the C/W MARS system though a search of the C/W MARS catalog yields no “hits.”)


Fair to good condition, with overall toning and top right corner cracked and repaired