A rare and early map of Dover New Hampshire

G[eorge] L[eighton] Whitehouse / Pendleton’s Lithography, A Map of the Town of Dover, New Hampshire… [on sheet with] A Map of Dover Village, New Hampshire… [Boston?], 1834.
Lithograph, 20 ½”h x 28 5/8”w, uncolored. Gently cleaned, with a long mended tear extending from the left margin 10” into the image. Original linen backing replaced with another sheet of early linen.

An immensely detailed view of Dover New Hampshire in the early 19th century. In addition to its intrinsic rarity, this is remarkable as one of the very few printed plans of New Hampshire towns issued prior to 1850.

The print consists in fact of two maps. At left is a map of the town on a scale of ½ mile to the inch, including roads, buildings, major businesses and other landmarks, and indicating the precise lengths and bearings of the town’s boundaries. At right is a detailed plan of Dover Village on the very large scale of 20 rods to the inch. Streets and street names are shown and property boundaries are delineated, as well apparently as the footprints of every major and minor structure. A numeric legend identifies 50 important locations, including but not limited to city offices, banks, churches, schools and businesses. Clearly visible in the center of town on the south bank of the Cochecho River is the huge complex of textile mills operated by the Cocheco Manufacturing Company. The Company was by far the largest business in town, and in its various incarnations transformed Dover into a hub of the Industrial Revolution in northern New England.

A most distinctive feature of this plan are the shading patterns employed to differentiate churches, factories, schools, dwellings and shops and indicate whether they are made of wood or brick. No fewer than ten distinct shading patterns are used for the buildings, an impressive attempt to convey a great deal of information in a limited space, presumably useful for fire insurance purposes.

A mystery
As mentioned above, there were very, very few plans New Hampshire towns printed prior to 1850. In fact, according to Cobb’s New Hampshire Maps to 1900 the Whitehouse plan was preceded only by Phinehas Merrill’s plans of Stratham (1793) and Exeter (1802), John Hales’ plan of Portsmouth (1813), and possibly an anonymous, undated plan of Albany. The only other plan of the 1830s was Akerman’s plan of Portsmouth (1839). In the context of the mapping of New Hampshire, therefore, Whitehouse’s map is an outlier—in terms of both its format in even its sheer existence.

The Virtual Museum of Surveying ffers a capsule biography of G.L. Whitehouse, though it does little to shed light on the circumstances that led to the production of this map.

“George Leighton Whitehouse was born at Middleton, New Hampshire in 1797 and died in 1887.  In 1815 he became an apprentice in a cotton factory, staying for two summer seasons and teaching through the winters.  He farmed with his father in Middleton until 1824, was a grocer in Farmington until 1827, became deputy sheriff of the county and held the office until 1833.  He served as register of deeds of the county from 1833 to 1839.  While serving as register of deeds he made the first map of the town of Dover, New Hampshire.


“From 1839 to 1871 he conducted surveys for railroads and canals in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  He became a member of the New Hampshire legislature in 1830 and again in 1856-57.  He served as judge of the court of common pleas from 1841 to 1855.  He was a land surveyor for 60 years.”

As another point of departure, the Map of the Town of Dover on the left side of the sheet in some ways resembles the many maps of Massachusetts towns published in the early 1830s. Though the scale is different (the Mass. plans were issued at 100 rods to the inch), the overall content is similar—the careful delineation of town boundaries, the location of cultural institutions and businesses, and the emphasis on the human rather than the natural geography. The printer, Pendleton’s Lithography, also played in key role in producing dozens of the Massachusetts plans.

Most of the Massachusetts plans were based on “actual surveys” conducted in accord with an 1830 act of the state legislature. To my knowledge, however, there was in New Hampshire at the time no similar legislative requirement for towns to conduct surveys. Given the dominance of the Cocheco Company at the time, perhaps there was some connection between the map and the Company’s business interests.

A rare and most interesting map, with a bit of mystery that would likely reward further research.

Cobb, New Hampshire Maps to 1900, #121 (American Antiquarian Society, Dartmouth, Library of Congress, New Hampshire Historical Society and University of New Hampshire). As of April 2017 OCLC gives impressions at the Boston Public Library, Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Historical Society. I know of another impression held in a private New England collection, purchased from this firm several years ago. For much more on the Cocheco Manufacturing Co., see “A Yarn to Follow” on the web site of the Dover, NH Public Library. Whitehouse is also discussed at some length in Sivio Bedini’s With Compass and Chain, pp. 700-703.