Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leavitt's Maps of the White Mountains

Franklin Leavitt was a farmer from Lancaster, New Hampshire who supplemented his income by acting as a guide for visitors to the White Mountains.  Around 1851, apparently having concluded that there was enough interest in the region, he decided to create a map of the area and sell it to tourists.  Though his map included some rudimentary information about distances between major cities and area attractions, it was not to be used as a travel aid, but rather act as a souvenir of the trip.

Published in 1852, the first edition had north at the bottom of the map and included small vignettes of area hotels and local attractions. Later editions of Leavitt's maps, including the 1854 edition shown here, re-oriented the drawing so that north faced the more conventional top of the sheet and added additional illustrations.

The Willey Family Tragedy.
One of these pictorial views tells the tale of the destruction of the Willey family.  In 1826, the Willey family became concerned that a landslide might destroy their house and so built a shelter in what was supposed to be a safer location.  In a twist of tragic irony, when the feared slide did occur, a large boulder near the house diverted the slide around the house while flattening the "safer" shelter that the Willey's and their hired hands hand just taken refuge in.

Rauner holds all eight editions of Leavitt's maps, including the rare 1876 version.  Ask for Iconography 1294 to see the maps.

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