Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History
                       1852 Franklin Leavitt Map

     Franklin Leavitt. Map of the White Mountains, N.H.
: J. H. Bufford’s Lithography, 1852. 
                            No scale given.  49 x 89 cm.

                          Courtesy of Harvard College

Franklin Leavitt’s (1824-1898) was one of the first two published maps of the White Mountains. (The other was M. Conant’s “Map of the Mountain and Lake Regions of New-Hampshire,” which was published the same year.) It is notable that these first two maps were tourist maps, not topographical maps. Leavitt was born in or near Lancaster, N.H., and was self taught. His map, although manifestly a piece of folk art, is informed by some of the professional cartographical work of his time. Early in his life, he worked at the Notch House, an early inn near Crawford Notch. He also helped to build trails and the Carriage Road (now the Auto Road), and he worked as a guide. With the coming of the railroad to the White Mountains, he evidently concluded that there would be a market for a tourist map, drew one, and took it to one of the leading printing houses in Boston for lithographic reproduction. In this map, north is at the bottom, which, as David Tatham notes, reflects the view familiar to Leavitt from his home in Lancaster. Many prominent mountains are missing. Tatham also observes, “As a rule, a mountain was shown if it was prominently visible from a hotel veranda, had a bridle path, was a notable landmark, or was the site of a memorable incident in local history.” He further suggests that someone, likely Bufford, the lithographer, improved Leavitt’s spelling, which is notably worse in Leavitt’s later maps. The scale used in the map is variable; distances are not consistently in proportion. The source of Leavitt’s table of summit elevations is not yet known.  Most are rounded to the nearest 1000 feet, but Washington’s summit elevation is given as 6284 feet.  A number of mountain names given here are otherwise unattested, such as Mount Brickhouse in Crawford Notch, Mount Warren, and Whiteface. The last is not the one now called by that name but rather a peak in Crawford Notch, and is otherwise known only from George Bond’s manuscript journal. For more on the history of this map, see David Tatham, “Franklin Leavitt’s Pictorial Maps of the White Mountains,” in Georgia Brady Barnhill, ed., Prints of New England: Papers Given at the Seventh Annual North American Print Conference. (Worcester: The American Antiquarian Society, 1991), pp. 105-134.


Other states and editions

Leavitt produced seven editions of his map, but each was not so much a new edition as a completely new map. (The last appeared in two states.) They were entirely different from each other. The first two were lithographs, the remainder wood engravings. Leavitt prepared, in addition, three manuscript maps of the White Mountains, which still survive and were not converted into publishable form. One, not much more than a sketch, is in the collections of the Lancaster History Society and the other two, more fully realized, are in private hands.


The complete cartobibliography of Leavitt’s maps is given by Tatham, p. 131, which, however, omits the extremely rare 1876 issue.  This is a reprint of the 1871 edition, with the addition of the railroad through the Notch and of Plaisted House. There may be other differences, as well. To see all the Leavitt maps, including the 1876, click here.

Click here for PDF version that will allow you to zoom in for detail.

Website Builder