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John G. Hales Map of BOSTON, in the State of MASSACHUSETTS Surveyed by J. G. Hales Geog.r & Surveyor. 1814John G. Hales began his career as a civil engineer in England in the late 18th or early 19th century. Around 1806 he emigrated to America, eventually settling in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1812 and 1813 he produced a number of estate plans for residents of that town, and in 1813 he published a Map of the Compact Part of the Town of Portsmouth and A Map of Upper and Lower Canada, with Part of the United States Adjoining; Comprising the Present Seat of War. He then moved to Boston, and in 1814 he published his monumental Map of Boston in the State of Massachusetts. Both the Portsmouth and Boston maps were landmarks, being by far the largest-scale and most detailed maps of those towns yet issued.

In mid-1819 he was commissioned to conduct “an accurate survey of all the public streets, squares and alleys” of Boston, which was executed at a scale vastly exceeding his earlier work.Thereafter he sought to produce a map of Massachusetts on an advanced “trigonometric” survey, with the hope of supplanting Osgood Carleton’s highly imperfect Map of Massachusetts Proper (1801). Due to fiscal constraints, however, the legislature chose not to support the project.

In 1823 Hales was convicted of forgery, though it is unclear how much time he served. One way or another, he found a way to publish The County of Essex from Actual Survey (1825), which in scale and content is a natural complement to his 1819 Map of Boston and Its Vicinity. One imagines that the Essex County map was an attempt to salvage something from the ashes of the Massachusetts mapping project.

In 1830 the Massachusetts legislature passed enabling legislation to produce a new state map. The project required each town to conduct a survey of its territory and submit a plan to the Secretary of State. At least 45 towns commissioned surveys from Hales, and his original manuscript maps from these surveys reside at the Massachusetts State Archives.   In addition, some were printed by Pendleton’s Lithography in Boston and are held in major institutional collections as well as appearing occasionally on the private market.

Hales died in May of 1832 at the age of 47—of “apoplexy,” according to one source. For both his prolific output and his championing of advanced mapping methods he deserves to be placed among the first rank of New England mapmakers.



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John G[raves]. HALES, (mapmaker and publisher) / J[ohn Peter] v[an] N[ess] Throop (engraver), THE COUNTY OF ESSEX From ACTUAL Survey MADE BY JOHN G. HALES Engraved by J.V.N. Throop Boston June 19th 1825 [but 1826].

A landmark in the mapping of Essex County, Massachusetts

  John G. Hales’ rare and important 1825 map of Essex County, Massachusetts. A great improvement on previous mapping of the county, the first separate map to focus on it, and only the second published map of any county in Massachusetts. This wonderful map is based on original survey work conducted by Hales from about […]

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John Hales’ superb map of Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A superb and extremely rare map of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Executed at the very large scale of 1”:2 chains (i.e., 1:1464), Hales’ map is imposing, extremely informative and remarkably decorative. Per the title it focuses on the center of town, which occupied a large peninsula bounded by Islington Creek, the Piscataqua river and the South […]

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John G. Hales Map of BOSTON, in the State of MASSACHUSETTS Surveyed by J. G. Hales Geog.r & Surveyor. 1814

Magnificent 1814 map of Boston by John G. Hales

John G. Hales’ superb and extremely rare map of Boston, depicting the town at the outset of its massive 19th-century expansion. “Not only the most accurate map of Boston yet produced but also the first to show all the buildings” and “an invaluable source of information about Federal-period Boston.” (Krieger & Cobb, p. 191) Trained […]

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Landmark map of the Greater Boston area

A most important but little-known Boston map by a most important but little-known mapmaker Hales’ wonderful map offers depicts the region encompassing Beverly to the northeast, Scituate to the southeast, and Natick, East Sudbury &c. to the west-over 720 square miles in all. The relatively large scale of 1 inch to the mile enables Hales […]

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John G[roves] Hales (mapmaker and publisher) / Edwin Gillingham Sc[ulpsit] / J. Coffin Pr[inter], MAP OF BOSTON AND ITS VICINITY From Actual Survey BY JOHN G. HALES. Boston: John G. Hales and Philadelphia: John Melish, 1819.

Superb map of the Boston area by John G. Hales

A most important 1819 map of the Greater Boston area by John G. Hales. Though little known today, Hales deserves a place among the first rank of early American surveyors and map makers. Hales’ wonderful map depicts the region encompassing Beverly to the northeast, Scituate to the southeast, and Natick, East Sudbury &c. to the […]

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