A most appealing 1883 promotional map of the Famous Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, one of New England’s great destinations for its combination of natural beauty and cultural attractions.
The map offers a very detailed view of Berkshire County, including its towns and their boundaries, topographical features, and roads and railroads, with symbols identifying school houses, cemeteries, churches and railroad stations. The borders bear extensive text promoting the region’s charms, and a pictorial vignette depicts Mt. Greylock as seen from Pittsfield’s Lake Onota.
The map was compiled by Walter Watson, a civil engineer resident in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and issued in 1883 as a promotional item by the Pittsfield-based Berkshire Life Insurance Company (est. 1851) (That firm is still in operation and remains headquartered in Pittsfield, though in 2001 it was acquired by The Guardian.) The Harvard University Gazette of Oct. 24, 2002 asserts the map is “widely regarded as the first free road map ever distributed (by the Berkshire Life Insurance Company), mainly for touring bicyclists.” If so, visitors were in for a surprise: The map gives the impression that cyclists could easily plan a pleasant day trip not requiring much exertion, whereas the reality is that the Berkshire Hills are, well, hilly!
Watson compiled a second edition of the map, with geographical updates, in 1896. He also produced a map of Pittsfield that first appeared in the 1893 city Directory.
OCLC 17763677 et al. Rumsey #8016 (1896 edition). Not in Phillips, List of Maps of America, though the Library of Congress holds a variant of the first edition dated 1889.