Henry F. Walling and the Mapping of New England’s Towns, 1849–1857
rendered the maps more attractive, and the inclusion of land owners would have appealed to the vanity of pro- spective buyers.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WALLING’S TOWN MAPS Near the end of his life Walling wrote to defend the work of “commercial” mapmakers:
“The wholesale condemnation which certain sci- entific critics have from time to time bestowed upon commercial maps, as such, not discrimi- nating between those which have been carefully made from original work and other mere compi- lations… which perpetuate from year to year the original errors of their sources of information, in- dicates an unjustifiable lack of knowledge on the part of the critic, of the amount of original and really valuable information which some of these commercial maps embody.”19
This claim is undeniably correct, at least with regard to
Walling’s early town maps. These set a new cartographic standard for the depiction of New England towns, and they pointed the way for a generation of maps by competitors such as Richard Clark, G.M. Hopkins, Presdee & Edwards, E.M. Woodford and others. For Walling himself, this early body of work was a
catalyst for a lifetime of achivement and innovation. His synthetic approach served him well in the next phase of his career, during which he produced the dozens of large-scale “land-ownership” maps of counties in New England and elsewhere. It also earned him the commission to revise Simeon Borden’s groundbreaking map of Massachusetts, which in turn lead to work on several other major state maps in the late 1850s and early 1860s. These experiences helped him develop a powerful understanding of both the science of mapmaking and its financial and organizational aspects, and they brought him into contact with leaders of America’s scientific mapmaking community. From there he went on to play a key role in important transitions in American mapmaking: the rise to market dominance of large-scale “land-ownership” maps and atlases; the application of the methods and tools of “geodetic” and “trigonometric” surveying to the mapping of states, counties and even
32 | The Portolan | Spring 2008
towns; the emergence of topographical mapping; and the growing importance of collaboration between the private sector and federal and state agencies in the mapping of the United States.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This article would not have been possible without the opportunity to examine the Walling maps held in several major collections. In this regard the author greatly appreciates the assistance of Georgia Barnhill of the American Antiquarian Society, David Cobb and Joseph Garver of the Harvard Map Collection, Ronald Grim of the Leventhal Map Center, Tom Hall of the Barry MacLean Collection, Ed Redmond of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, and Fred Musto, formerly of the Yale Map Collection. The photograph of Walling is used courtesy of Lafayette
College. All other images are provided courtesy of the Harvard Map Collection. Larry Caldwell, David Cobb, Ronald Grim and Henry Taliaferro were kind enough to review a draft of this article. Any errors remain the author’s alone.
THE AUTHOR Washington Map Society member Michael Buehler is the principal of Boston Rare Maps, a firm specializing in important, interesting and rare maps of New England and the Northeast.
ENDNOTES 1 A valuable chapter-length survey of Walling’s career is found in Walter Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986, pp. 327–338.
2 Ristow (1886) is very helpful in this regard, as is his essay “Lithography and Maps, 1796–1850,” in David Woodward, ed., Five centuries of map printing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975, pp. 77–112. One other valuable discussion is found in Michael Conzen, “The County Landownership Map in America Its Commercial Development and Social Transformation 1814–1939.” Imago Mundi, vol. 36 (1984), pp. 9–31.
3 For reasons unclear, only one of his maps of towns in other states has this feature: Map of the Villages of Saco and Biddeford York County, Maine from Original Surveys (1851).
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