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The County Maps -Some Published text
Here are three brief pieces of text on two New England 1850s wall maps reprinted by Old Maps in 1981-1983.

      Windham County Vermont  - Introduction to the 1983 edition
      Hillsboro County NH    -   Introduction to the 1981 edition
      Hillsboro County NH    -   Differences among several states of the map
Preliminary notes on Vermont County Maps - This is a PDF of Dave's notes, along with pictures

The surveyor for these two maps was J. Chace Jr., who was also the surveyor for Rutland and Windham counties in Vermont.  (Chace was also involved with the Windsor County map.)

Windham County Vermont  (Introduction to the 1983 Atlas Edition)

McClellan’s Map of Windham County, Vermont
An Historical Sketch of the Map

 During a short period of time in the decade preceding the Civil War, an extraordinary series of detailed county maps was pro­duced, which recorded the names and locations of homes and businesses throughout the Northeastern United States. In 1856, early in this period of county mapmaking, McClellan’s Map of Windham County, Vermont was published. This was the first comprehensive map of Windham County.

 Little is known about the Philadelphian firm of C. McClellan & Co. (the producers of the map). Of the hundreds of county maps produced in the 1850s, the name C. McClellan appears on only this one. In contrast, the name of the surveyor, J. Chace, Jr., is associated with at least eighteen other county maps in the period 1854—1860. Chace was surveyor for maps of Rutland, Windsor and Windham counties in Vermont, as well as for county maps in Maine, New York and New Hampshire. Like many of the map publishers, Chace was based in Philadelphia, although the Wind-ham County map lists his address as Troy, New York.

 Records of the survey methods used and of the sales tech­niques have been hard to find. Based on research done into other county maps, however, it is possible to speculate with some confidence. Surveyor Chace traveled the roads of Windham County, carrying notebooks and measuring devices. He used a wheeled odometer, probably horse-drawn, to measure distances.

 In the populated areas he may have used a hand propelled odometer similar to the one pictured here. He used a compass to determine the bearings of roads and the locations of hills and other geographic features. As he recorded the cartographic data, the surveyor would also note the locations of the principal buildings, and, more importantly, the names of the owners. This was the point of printing the map, a new map which, for the first time, would record the locations of all the cultural sites in the county, with the owner’s name beside each. As he noted the homeowner’s name, Chace, who was probably as much salesman as geographer, would explain the significance of the new map, and invite an advance order for it. The map was probably available only by advance subscription. The price was about five dollars, a substantial sum in the 1850s.

 After the field work for the map was done, Chace prepared a draft which was no doubt shown around Brattleboro as he, or perhaps a sales agent, attempted to sell advertising space. Mapmakers increased their revenue by adding engraved views of local businesses—for a fee—to the margins of their maps. The price might be as high as fifty dollars per view. Note that four of the seven views on the Windham County map are of Brattleboro businesses: a melodeon factory, a furniture factory, and Brattle­boro’s two water cure establishments. The advertising has long outlived the businesses, none of which exist today.

Drawings, or perhaps photographs of the buildings were prepared and sent to Philadelphia along with the draft map. In Philadelphia, the map’s designers assembled the various parts into a composite map, added a decorative border and engraved the whole onto large stone printing plates. The map was printed on four separate sheets which were then fitted and glued to a canvas backing. Each map was then hand colored. Different hues were applied to each town; slightly darker shades defined the town lines. The finished maps were varnished and mounted on wooden rollers.

 The original Windham County map is not commonly seen today, which suggests that only a few may have been printed. It is among the rarest of the Vermont county maps. Its scarcity may be due to a poor sales effort by the map’s publishers. Searches in old newspapers have failed to uncover advertisements for the map of the sort used in nearby Cheshire County, New Hampshire, where a similar—and more commonly seen—map was produced in 1858.

 Several features of the Windham County map suggest the relative inexperience of its publishers. The large lettering gives certain areas of the map a cluttered appearance. In places names are hard to read, due both to the handwriting of the engraver, and to flaws in the actual printing. Additionally, the map’s accuracy in some instances is questionable. Road layouts, for example, are in many areas only generally accurate.

Variations in name spelling attract special attention. Some are clearly wrong, like “Birce Street” (Birge Street) in Brattleboro and “B.S. Paulding” (B. Spaulding) in Londonderry. Errors like these probably crept into the map when the Philadelphia engrav­ers interpreted the surveyor’s notes. Other odd spellings are less easily explained. Do the entries “Parkkus” in Townshend and “Edwads” in Wardsboro reflect misengravings? Or do they per­haps give us clues as to how some names were pronounced in 1856? We don’t know whether the surveyor actually checked the spelling of each property owner’s name, or whether he simply wrote down what he heard. Throughout the map can be seen different spellings of nearly identical names, A good example of this is seen on the maps of Brattleboro and Guilford. There, within a few miles of each other, are seen the family names “Akley,” “Acley” and “Ackley.” Is this variance due to mapmaker error, or did these neighboring, and possibly related families actually spell their names three different ways?

 The publication of McClellan’s Map of Windham County in a convenient atlas form should encourage the use and study of this pioneer document of Windham County history. Answers to the questions raised by this map may become evident with time and further study. Comments by readers on the map’s accuracy and insights into how this important old document was prepared are welcomed by the publisher.


Hillsboro County, New Hampshire (Introduction to the 1982 Edition)

Map of Hillsboro County, NH  1858
An Historical Sketch of The Map

The Map of Hillsboro County, 1858 is a singular historical document. The result of the most comprehensive survey yet made of these  towns, the map pinpoints the names and locations of every residence, workplace, church and school. The geographic features which give our region its charm and character are carefully displayed. The map, like later gazetteers, presents important demographic data: population and agricultural statistics, and substantial city directories. The birthplaces of prominent Americans—Franklin Pierce and Horace Greeley among others— are given special treatment.

The publishers, Smith, Mason & Co. of Philadelphia, published similar maps of other New Hampshire counties. Publica­tion was announced in local newspapers during the winter of 1856-57. Offices were set up in Manchester and Nashua where prospective customers could view preliminary plans for the work. Advance orders were taken for the map, at five dollars per copy. Prominent citizens allowed their names to be used in the map’s advertisements, testifying to the merits of the map, and no doubt assuring it of financial success.

 The map was printed on four separate sheets (probably on large stone printing plates) and assembled and glued together onto a cloth backing. Each copy was then hand-colored in several different hues, varnished, and mounted on wooden rollers. The large size—five feet on an edge—has often proved an impediment to display. Copies have commonly been con­signed to storage, usually in attics, where they have suffered the adverse effects of heat and leaky roofs. Originals in good condition today are rare items.

 Maps and plans made prior to the 1850s were simple affairs, usually commissioned by government, showing only political boundaries, major roadways, and an occasional mill or tavern. With few exceptions (Nashua, Milford and Manchester), no detailed town maps preceded the 1858 map. Thus it becomes the first “road map” for most of the Hillsborough County towns.

 Roads were measured with a wheel odometer, similar to the wheelbarrow-like device pictured here. Some odometers may have been drawn by horse and buggy. The surveyor would ask the names of farmstead owners as he passed by, and would surely add a brief sales pitch for the new map, after all, the map would carry the name of the resident engraved upon it.

 It is questionable whether surveyor J. Chace, Jr. personally measured all these roads. Perambulating them all would have required many months. As Chace is surveyor of record for no fewer than 21 different county maps during the period 1854-1860, it is likely that assist­ants did most of the hard work. The original road surveys for this privately-produced map were the most comprehensive yet made; this map served as the basis for later maps until the end of the century.



Hillsboro County:   Differences among Several States of the Map

  In preparing the Map of Hillsboro County for reproduction last year I noticed that there are differences among the several copies of the original wall maps which I examined.   At this point I have been able to identify 2 different editions of the map, and have identified a single variant map which was probably the publisher’s proof copy.

 The two editions are distinguished by the arrangement of the maps elements. Some of the maps are oriented to magnetic north (the first edition) while others, more numerous in my research, are oriented to true north. The magnetic north maps have the cartouche at the top center of the map, slightly to the left.  On the true north copies the entire county section is pivoted to the left (counterclockwise), and the cartouche is placed in the upper right. The village inset maps are arranged in entirely different locations (?).   NEED PHOTO.

  I found several magnetic north (“original”) editions in a finished state: the maps were assembled onto cloth backing, varnished, and mounted onto wooden rollers. This was the conventional finished format.  The copies I examined were owned by private individuals.

  But interestingly, there is a single magnetic north copy in the library of the New Hampshire Historical Society which is quite different than the other magnetic north copies – many sites have different names.  This copy, unlike the others observed, is unvarnished, and was never assembled and mounted. The NHHS copy is 4 pieces of paper, nicely printed, with coloring only on the town borders.

 My comparison of the maps was not comprehensive, but I did notice several dozen differences. On the Brookline village map the NHHS map shows a “W. Gilson” on the right side of a road; the more finished maps label this site “Gilson & French”.  The Mont Vernon finished maps show a “Ruby Hill” while no such feature appears on the NHHS copy. There are at least 6 amendments to the map of Amherst village.

 These differences strongly suggest that the NHHS copy might be a proof copy which was brought to New Hampshire for marketing and accuracy-checking purposes. Advertisements which ran in local newspapers in February of 1857 [1]stated that some drafts of the map were already in existence (they had been shown to prominent citizens who gave testimonials in the ad) and that more finished prints (?) would soon be available for “…examining the work before its final compilation, in order to make it entirely satisfactory as to accuracy, & etc.”   The changes manifested on the varnished maps no doubt reflect corrections and amendments suggested by the public.  The entries on the varnished and mounted maps are clearly changes (in some cases faint lettering of the proceeding entry can be discerned in the later editions). My cursory examination indicates that most of the changes are in the populated areas.  This corresponds with the record left in advertisements by the publishers. They went to the larger towns to sell their maps, and would presumably have gotten the most corrections from those areas. Residents of outlying towns may not have had an opportunity to examine the demonstration maps. If that is so, then errors may be more likely in those towns if we assume that errors would be randomly spread throughout the map.
D. Allen  1983

[1] Full-column advertisements were made in the Union Democrat of Manchester in every issue (weekly) from Nov 25, 1856 to February 17, 1857.  A similar (identical?) ad ran in the New Hampshire Telegraph on February 14, 1857.  That ad stated that the publishers would be be in Nashua for several weeks.

Revised: 01/13/10
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