Lovely tourist map of the Famous Berkshire Hills

Walter Watson, C[ivil] E[ngineer] / Sun Printing Company, RAILWAY AND HIGHWAY MAP of the FAMOUS BERKSHIRE HILLS REGION… Pittsfield, MA: Berkshire Life Insurance Co., 1883 /corrected to 1896.
Lithograph map printed in four colors flanked by letterpress, 29 ½”h x 21 ¾”w at neat line plus margins. Folded and tipped into light-green card stock pocket folder (8” x 5”), the folder with printed title and a tinted photograph tipped to an embossed recess on the front. Map with small separations at a couple of folds, a hint of marginal soiling, and a tiny chip along left edge but still better than very good. Folder bumped and soiled.

An appealing 1896 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. The borders bear extensive text promoting the region’s charms, and a pictorial vignette depicts Mt. Greylock as seen from Pittsfield’s Lake Onota. This is the only example of the map I have seen that is folded and tipped into its original printed pocket folder.

The Famous Berkshire Hills was drawn by Walter Watson, a civil engineer resident in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and first issued in 1883. Offered here is the second edition, with geographical updates to 1896; the addition of red symbols identify roads, rail stations, schools & other features; and other changes. Watson also produced a map of Pittsfield that first appeared in the 1893 city Directory.

Watson produced this map as a promotional item to be distributed 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 one can easily plan a pleasant day trip that doesnt requiring much exertion, whereas the reality is that the Berkshire Hills are, well, hilly!

OCLC #17763677 et al, giving numerous locations. Rumsey #8016 (1896 edition).[3] Not in Phillips, List of Maps of America, though the Library of Congress holds a variant of the first edition dated 1889.