Bird’s Eye View for $5.00 in 1876. “Wide Size 35″ if we sell 200 copies. ” Dedham MA

Most map fans love 19th century bird’s eye views – lithographs of cities and town centers showing buildings and landscapes as viewed from above.  If your town was near a railroad line and had a few hundred homes and businesses in the late 1800s, there might be a bird’s eye view available. The Library of Congress has the largest collection – more than 1,500 city views.  

The Boston Public Library has quite a few views, and an original sign-up sheet from 1876 listing the cost and some buyers of the Dedham, MA view.  It’s a contract between author/publisher E. Whitefield and his customers. The sheet tells us that the view will cost $5.00 and that it will be either 20” or 35” wide. “200 copies must be subscribed for to make it 35”. Sales must have been good, because the final view measures a full 35” wide.

19th Century birds eye views are amazingly detailed, showing every building in perspective view. For smaller towns you can even count the windows and match them to what exists today.




Note the plume of dark smoke from a small building on the left side of the view. A smoky factory was a sign of progress in the 1870s

Mr Whitefield emblazoned his name on a roof in the foreground – a good way to advertise for more business.




——————————————————————————————————–The Boston Public Library  (Leventhal Collection) has an unfinished version of the Dedham view which may have been used by Whitefield to make a few more sales just before publication.  It was common for 19th century lithographers to set up shop in a local hotel for a week or two to display a rough copy and take orders for prints. The finished Library of Congress’ copy of the Dedham view is tinted in color and has a title and a sky filled with clouds.

You can buy the Dedham print (and many other town/city prints) at the web site


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