Commercial Cartography 1830-1860

Commercial mapping in the thirty years prior to the Civil War does not require extensive discussion here. This is partially because many of developments in New York have already been covered in considerable depth by W.W. Ristow in his book on nineteenth-century commercial cartography, and there is no need to repeat what he has written. It is also true that, with some notable exceptions, the mapping of this period did not break new ground. Much of it took the form of augmentation and elaboration of themes and trends described in chapters eight and nine. Still, the commercial mapping of this period fits into the broader pattern of the development of nineteenth-century cartography. Aside from new developments, some of these maps provide important information for researchers, and it is interesting to see how they relate to those that came before and after them.

During these years, the population and economy of New York continued to grow rapidly. The population of the state as a whole increased from about 1.9 million in 1830 to around 3.9 million in 1860.[1] Although agriculture remained the primary occupation of New Yorkers, during this period the percentage of urban population increased to 39.3 percent in 1860.[2] Between 1830 and 1860, the population of New York City increased from 202,589 to 813,669, Buffalo from 8,668 to 81,129, Albany from 24,209 to 62,367, and Rochester from 9,207 to 48,204.[3] This rapid urbanization was accompanied by the growth of commerce and industry, and these years also saw the rapid development the railroad network, which made possible the movement of people and goods at previously unthinkable speeds.

Under these circumstances, the production of maps grew and diversified. The increases in population and wealth created a larger market for maps. Increasing urbanization created a demand for maps of the state’s larger cities. The growth of railroads increased mobility, and led to the production of a whole new genre, “railroad maps.” Toward the end of this period, especially in the 1850s, we see the birth of several new types of maps to meet the needs of the nation’s growing cities (including fire insurance maps and maps of sewage and water supply).

General Purpose Maps

Between 1830 and 1860, the overall output of printed maps expanded dramatically. This was made possible not only because of the increase in demand, but because ways were found to publish maps more cheaply, and to distribute them more efficiently. Some publishers developed new techniques of steel engraving, which made possible larger press runs than engraving on softer copper plates. The widespread use of lithography, which eventually became the predominant means of map publication, also helped map publishers reduce costs.[4] In addition, the cost of paper dropped sharply, thanks to the introduction of wood pulp paper in the 1850s. (The high sulfur content of this paper also made it acidic, which has caused many of these maps to become brown, brittle, and crumbly, to the bane of librarians and collectors). Increasing urbanization and improved transportation made it easier to distribute and sell maps.

At this time, mapping became more of a corporate activity. Independent map makers, like Amos Lay or J.H. Eddy earlier in the nineteenth century, played a smaller role in the overall production of maps. Increasingly, cartographers and engravers became specialists, whose work was published by large companies employing dozens or even hundreds of people. Individual entrepreneurs were more successful at producing small runs of maps for specialized markets, such as individual towns or counties.

Throughout this period, Philadelphia remained a center of high-quality map publishing in the United States. The most important Philadelphia map publisher after 1830 was Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792- 1868), who is best known for his atlases.[5] Mitchell also published a series of workmanlike maps of New York State between 1830 and 1860.[6] Several editions of these can be viewed on the Web site of the New York Public Library.[7] Although these maps were frequently updated, they did not change much in their general appearance. They contain no surprises, and show the expected counties, canals, towns, roads, and railroads. They distinguish between turnpikes and “common roads,” and include insets showing the major cities of the state.

The decades prior to the Civil War also saw the rapid growth of the J.H. Colton Map Company, which was based in New York City.[8] The patriarch of this company was Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800- 1893). After 1864, his company was headed by his sons G.W. and C.B. Colton. The Colton Company, which many consider to be the nation’s premier nineteenth-century map publisher, began its career in 1833 with the publication of an edition of David H. Burr’s map of New York.[9] J.H. Colton himself did not draft or engrave maps, and relied on purchasing the copyright from other publishers, or on publishing maps drawn by others. In addition to Burr, prominent cartographers associated with the J.H. Colton Company include J. Calvin Smith and D.G. Johnson.

Although Colton was not trained as a map maker, he showed good judgment in selecting maps for publication, and published many maps that were both accurate and attractive. He used a variety of techniques (sometimes in combination), including copper and steel engraving, as well as lithography. A trademark of Colton maps is their elaborate borders— often showing intertwined fruits, vines, or foliage—which seem to have been produced by some kind of ruling machine or automatic lathe.

Although the J.H. Colton Company and its successors published a wide range of maps and atlases covering the nation and the world, many of its publications focused on New York, especially in its early years. One of the most notable of these early Colton maps is a handsome topographical map of Manhattan and its vicinity, which was published in 1836.[10] This map, which has been extensively described elsewhere, draws heavily on William Bridges 1811 Commisoners’ Plan, as well as on the Randel Survey of Manhattan.[11] It was almost certainly drafted by David Burr, and engraved and printed by S. Stiles & Company. In addition to providing a detailed overview of Manhattan’s streets and topography, it included numerous vignettes of buildings and monuments, some of which were worked into the elaborate border. Colton’s map of Manhattan even included a reproduction of Visscher’s seventeenth-century profile of New Amsterdam among its illustrations. In short, the map was a celebration of the beauty and growth of New York City, and it doubtless found its place on the walls of numerous drawing rooms and offices in the expanding metropolis.

J.H. Colton & Company published several other maps of the New York City area. In the same celebratory vein, Colton published in 1846 a reworking of J.H. Eddy’s map of the Country 30 miles around New York (which was discussed in chapter 9).[12] Also noteworthy is a detailed map of Brooklyn, which was engraved by Samuel Stiles and copyrighted 1839. In spite of the copyright date, this map appears to have been first published in 1846, and went through at least two subsequent editions.[13]

The Colton Company was also involved in producing much less elaborate maps of Long Island. Many of these belonged to a series of maps that bore the title Traveller’s [sic] Map of Long Island. I have identified editions of this map dated 1843, 1845, 1848, 1850, 1852, 1853, 1857, 1866, 1874, and 1876.[14] The map lives up to its name: a simple folding map, it focuses on towns, roads, and railroads (Figure 11.1). The 1843 edition even lacks the trademark Colton border, and its utilitarian nature contrasts sharply with the elaborate maps Colton produced of Manhattan and vicinity. The Traveller’s Map is clearly a not-too-distant ancestor of the modern road map.
The Colton Company appears to have published few, if any, maps of upstate New York cities or regions prior to the Civil War (with the exception of a few maps showing railroad lines, which will be discussed in the following section). The company did, however, publish quite a few maps showing the state as a whole in addition to the Burr map. A number of these bore the title Colton ‘s Railroad & Township Map of the State of New York.[15] The Colton Company published “railroad and township” maps for much of the United State. Like the Traveller’s Map of Long Island, the railroad and township maps were fairly utilitarian productions. They were designed to be used not only by travelers but also for general reference purposes. Some of these maps included insets showing the street layout of the major towns in New York, and several of them appeared in atlases. Colton maps of New York State have a peculiarly complicated publication history. Similar maps of the state appeared under several titles, and some of them appeared under the imprint of different publishers, including Johnson and Ward.[16]

In the twenty years before the Civil War, there was some improvement in the accuracy of the best maps of the state, in part because of their use of information collected by government agencies, especially the U.S. Coast Survey and the New York State Natural History Survey. Some of these improvements can be seen in the later editions of D.H. Burr’s map and atlas of New York State. In the 1840s and 1850s, the most accurate and up-to-date general purpose maps of the state were created by John Calvin Smith, who usually called himself J. Calvin Smith.[17] Almost nothing is known about Smith, whom we have already encountered through his work with the state Natural History Survey, but he was a prolific mapmaker, who was active from the 1840s through the 1850s. The subjects of his maps range from individual New York counties to maps of the entire United States, and even included the California gold fields. He also published gazetteers of the United States and the world. He was referred to as a geographer, and he was a founding member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society (later the American Geographical Society). He was closely associated with other members of the New York City cartographic establishment, including J.H. Colton, John Disturnell, George Sherman, and Samuel Stiles. Many of Smith’s maps were engraved or published by these individuals.

Two of Smith’s maps deserve particular notice. The first is his Map of Long Island with the Environs of New-York and the Southern Part of Connecticut, which appeared in 1836.[18] This map, which was engraved by Samuel Stiles and published by Colton, went through several editions, which do not differ substantially. At a scale of 1:158,000 (2.5 miles to an inch) it is fairly detailed, and it includes a number of insets showing individual cities. A note on the map unhelpfully states that it was “compiled from various surveys & documents,” which probably included unpublished surveys by the U.S. Coast Survey, since the map is considerably more accurate than its predecessors. In addition to such standard information as roads and towns, Smith’s map shows such things as mills, churches, and toll gates. As we saw in the previous chapter, it served as the base for W.W. Mather’s Geological Map of Long and Staten Islands (1842)..

Smith also published a Map of the State of New York, which first appeared in 1841, and came out in a confusing variety of later editions prior to 1860.[19] At a scale of ca. 1:1,150,000, it is only moderately detailed, but it is geodetically more accurate than earlier maps of the state. It also shows the topography of mountainous regions with considerable accuracy. This is not surprising, because a close examination shows that it to be essentially a reduced-scale version of the Geological Map of the State of New York, which the firm of Sherman and Smith published in 1842. This geological map was the one described in Chapter 10, which was prepared for the New York State Natural History Survey, whose geologists had numerous complaints about the quality of existing maps of the state, and who used a new base map drawn by Smith for their work.

During these years, a number of smaller map publishers competed with Colton in the metropolis, and several publishers in Albany were quite active, often specializing in printing maps for projects paid for by the state government. Smaller map publishers also sprang up in cities like Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. Because of the relatively low cost of printing lithographed maps, many of these companies were able to specialize in town and county maps with print runs of 1000 or less. In major urban areas, it was not unusual for specialized maps to be published of real estate subdivisions, and even of cemeteries. Because of considerations of space and tedium, these maps cannot be dealt with here, but they can be tracked down in local libraries and historical societies, or by using standard reference sources.[20]

Railroad Maps

Most of the general purpose maps described above do not differ much from those published in the 1820s or 1830s. In all cases, you would be likely to see the now familiar outline of the state with the county boundaries drawn in, along with towns, roads, canals, rivers, and possibly some topography. On closer examination, you would almost certainly find on a map from the 1840s or 1850s at least one new feature—railroads. You would also be less likely to find a profile of the Erie Canal, which was almost obligatory on maps of New York published in the 1830s. Some of the more detailed railroad maps from the 1850s come complete with lists of railroad stations, or show in detail the routes of individual railroads. All of this bears witness to the increasing importance of railroads in everyday life.[21]

The first railroad in New York was the Mohawk and Hudson, which opened in 1831, and connected Albany and Schenectady. Numerous small railroads were constructed in the next twenty years, including the Saratoga and Schenectady, the Syracuse and Utica, the Long Island Rail-road, the Ithaca and Owego, and the Attica and Buffalo.[22] Many of these short lines were intended to serve as feeders from inland agricultural areas to canals. By 1855, a total of 2,300 miles of railroad had been opened, connecting most parts of the state in a single network. But railroad travel was still not a simple matter because of the numerous competing lines, some of which used different gauges of track. By 1842, it was possible to travel from Albany to Buffalo by train, but this involved using the tracks of seven different companies.

The 1850s saw considerable railroad consolidation. In 1851, the broad-gauge Erie Railroad opened to link the Hudson River with Lake Erie via New York’s “Southern Tier” of counties. It was served by a network of broad-gauge “feeder lines” in central New York. In 1853, Erastus Corning consolidated several small lines into the New York Central, which provided a single route from Buffalo to Albany. By the time of the Civil War, New York had a considerably more extensive railroad network than it has today, although it continued to expand until about 1900.

Maps are a favorite resource for locating old railroad lines and stations, and for tracing the complex evolution of the state’s railroad network. Thanks mainly to the efforts of the Library of Congress, a good selection of railroad maps of New York and the rest of the nation is available online.[23]

Most of the maps of this period showing railroads were commercially produced general reference maps made by companies like Mitchell and Colton. Colton’s “railroad and township maps,” mentioned above, illustrate even through their titles the growing importance of railroads to the general map user. Although these maps show roads as well as railroads, the roads are deemphasized, and only the major roads are shown. A few of the commercially published railroad maps were quite elaborate. One of these is a Map of the Rail Roads of the State of New York, published it 1858 by the Buffalo firm of Thomas Pentingale & Behn (Figure 11.2).[24] It lists all of the stations of every railroad line in New York State, and shows the distances between stations. A separate chart shows “connections with other roads.” It is also worth noting that beginning in the 1850s, the office of the New York State Engineer and Surveyor started publishing “official” maps showing the state’s railroads.[25] These appeared on an annual basis in the reports of the State Engineer and Surveyor, and they are useful for tracing the development of New York’s transportation network in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Prior to the Civil War, few advertising maps were issued by railroads themselves. One of the exceptions is a map printed for the New York & Erie Railroad by the Colton Company in 1855, which is entitled Map of New York & Erie Rail Road and its Connections; the Most Direct Route from New York to all Western Cities and Towns.[26] This map reflects the strenuous efforts made by the railroad, whose route passed through southern New York, to compete with the more northerly New York Central Railroad. It is thoroughly deceptive, since it straightens out the circuitous route of the New York & Erie to make it appear much more direct than it actually was, and neglects to point out that the railroad depot was actually in Newark, New Jersey, rather than in Manhattan. Later in the nineteenth century, such manipulations become common on railroad maps. Starting in the 1850s, a few New York railroads also began issuing land promotion and tourist maps, but, these activities were also more characteristic of the period after the Civil War, and will be discussed in a later chapter.County Land Ownership Maps

The most innovative productions of commercial map makers during this period were county land ownership maps. These are mostly large, lithographed wall maps of individual counties that show the names of property owners. They made a sudden appearance in New York in the 1850s, owing largely to the entrepreneurial efforts of Robert Pearsall Smith (1827-1898), but they had several antecedents.

It has already been seen that land ownership or cadastral maps were prominent in the cartography of New York from the British colonial period onwards. Cadastral maps of New York published before 1830 usually covered small geographic areas, although some were of regions or even the entire state. Typically, they showed the boundaries of major land holdings, and sometimes they identified the residences of prominent land owners. Unlike the maps under consideration here, they rarely focused on specific counties or displayed the names of large numbers of homeowners.

By 1830, there was a perceived need in New York and elsewhere for separate county maps. The state had become too heavily settled to be displayed in detail on a single sheet. The Burr atlas was in part a response to that need, for it is the first atlas of the state to include individual maps of each county. But these maps did not include the names of property owners, and were on too small a scale to do so.

It is necessary to look outside of New York for other antecedents. Large-scale county maps had been published in Britain since the sixteenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century many of them had become quite elaborate; some were based on triangulation, and showed such features as hedges and fields. They frequently gave the names of landed gentry, who often subscribed to the maps, and who were sometimes flattered by the inclusion of their coats of arms or by drawings of their manorial halls. In a revealing contrast to the more democratic practice that developed in nineteenth-century America, they did not show the names of individual homeowners.[27]

The most direct antecedents of the New York State county maps came from Pennsylvania. Michael Conzen cites Jason Torrey’s Map of Wayne and Pike Counties, Pennsylvania (1814) as the first county land ownership map in America. According to Conzen, “the Philadelphia geographer, John Melish, adopted Torrey’s map as a model for preparing maps of counties that would contribute to the construction of a new state map of Pennsylvania, more accurate than anything before, which he succeeded in publishing with legislative endorsement in 1822.”[28] Because there was not sufficient demand to pay for large, expensive county maps engraved on copper plates, only a few of the individual county maps underlying Melish’s Pennsylvania state map were actually published.

At this point Robert Pearsall Smith entered the picture. Smith was another Philadelphian, the son of the socially prominent head of the Library Company of Philadelphia, John Jay Smith. Smith and his father took an interest in the new technique of anastatic printing, a form of lithography that uses zinc plates, and makes it possible to reproduce maps much more quickly and inexpensively than engraving on copper.[29] By 1848, Smith was involved in publishing county maps of the area around Philadelphia.

Shortly after 1850, Smith started to focus his activities on New York State. Several county maps had been made of the state prior to Smith’s involvement, but the bulk of the county maps produced in New York in the 1850s were linked to Smith. Ristow chronicles in considerable detail the complex history of Smith’s involvement in the creation of county maps of New York.[30] In a nutshell, Smith saw a business opportunity when the New York State legislature refused to sponsor a systematic survey of the state in 1852 and 1853 (an event that will be discussed in the next chapter). Smith then proposed that the legislature subsidize a project to create an improved map of the state based on a series of high-quality county maps—a project that bears a marked resemblance to the way in which Melish created his 1822 map of Pennsylvania.

In spite of extensive lobbying, Smith never did get any money out of the legislature, but he went ahead with the project anyway. Smith’s role in this enterprise was not that of a map maker or even a map publisher. What he did was commission a group of surveyors to make county maps according to his standards and specifications. The actual printing of the maps was farmed out to various publishers, mostly in Philadelphia. Smith’s involvement in these maps is generally shown only through an inconspicuous copyright statement. The upshot of this project was that, by 1859, maps had been made of 59 of New York’s 60 counties.[31]

These county maps are heavily used by local historians and genealogists, but they are not readily available. Most of them can be found at the Library of Congress, and many of them are available at the New York State Library, Cornell University, and other large research libraries in New York. County historical societies and public libraries often have copies of the maps covering their local areas. Several of the county maps of New York are available on the Web sites of the Library of Congress and of the New York Public Library, and they can be consulted to get an idea of what these maps look like.[32] A detail of a typical example is shown below (Figure 11.3). Some of these maps can also be found on the Web sites of local historical societies, genealogical groups, and libraries Most of these county maps, especially those associated with R.P. Smith, are similar in appearance. They are all large wall maps, usually approximately three by four feet in size, which vary in scale from 1:63,360 to 1:40,000. They focus on roads, town boundaries, and houses, along with the names of their owners. There is some minimal topography. The margins of the maps often have insets showing home owners and streets in individual towns. They usually also include illustrations of prominent buildings, and some have statistical tables.

The maps in this series appear to be more carefully done than most nineteenth-century American property maps, which have a reputation for hucksterism and careless work. Many of the maps made of counties in the Middle West are stuffed with pictures showing farm families proudly lined up in front of their houses along with their prize livestock and other possessions, for which illustrations they doubtless paid a hefty fee. There is relatively little of this type of self-promotion and advertising on the New York maps, although they were sold by subscription, and some illustrations of business establishments were doubtless commissioned as a form of advertising.

In spite of their relatively high standards, these maps should not be taken at their face value. You can never be certain how many of the inhabitants are actually named on one of these maps, although the few studies that have been made indicate a fairly good correlation with census records. The names on these maps were taken partially from property records in county courthouses, and partially by knocking on doors. The surveyors who created these maps relied primarily on road surveys made with a compass and a wheelbarrow-like odometer (Figure 11.4). In the process of making these surveys, they would knock on doors to obtain the names of homeowners, and try to get them to subscribe to the forthcoming map. Often, poorer homeowners and renters were not included by the surveyors.Other than measuring the roads with compass and odometers, little surveying was done by triangulation or other means. Smith hoped to make these maps more accurate by obtaining precise latitudes and longitudes for the principle towns in each county. He even corresponded with A.D. Bache of the Coast Survey about the best way to do this, and lobbied hard to get funds for this type of geodetic control from the state legislature. But the legislature was unwilling to support this activity, and there is no indication that much of it was done. The best that can be said for these maps is that they were more accurate than the Burr maps, and better than most other contemporary county land maps.

The evidence about who purchased these maps and how they were used is mostly indirect. The county maps were sold by subscription, and about 1000 copies appear to have been a typical print run.[33] Smith tried to get the state to purchase copies to distribute to county offices and to school districts, but once again the legislature refused to fund his proposal, even though he obtained numerous affidavits requesting that they do so. Probably at least some of these maps were purchased by local government offices and school districts. It is certain that some of his maps were purchased by stores and other businesses. They would have helped businessmen locate their customers, and their considerable curiosity value would have made them eye-catching decorations for taverns and offices. At least some of the maps were purchased by local farmers. Writing in 1864, Smith made the interesting observation that Confederate raiders in Pennsylvania stripped county maps off the walls of farmhouses preceding the Battle of Gettysburg—both to gain geographical intelligence for themselves, and to keep it out of the hands of the Union forces.[34]

Concerning the methods he used to construct his county maps, Smith remarked in a communication he sent to the American Philosophical Society in 1864:

The field work seems rude to the physicist, engaged in discussing the figure of the earth, and to the chief of a survey of an arc of the meridian. But the results are perfectly satisfactory to the naturalist, the county surveyor, the soldier, and the geologist. The latter finds his canvas ready prepared, and can lay in his picture with comfort and success. When larger areas are to be mapped, the astronomical determinations and trigonometrical adjustments come in place. But the compensations which rectify magnetic work in the field, by skilled hands, carefully plotted afterwards in the office, produce results which favorably compare with the most careful triangulation; and at all events may, if the needs of society call for it, precede, in order of time, just as well as follow, the application of the more accurate methods of the science.[35]

Like all of Smith’s remarks in defense of his cartographic methods, this comment should not be accepted at face value. His arguments are very similar to those of Roberdeau and others who questioned the methods of Hassler’s Coast Survey. Probably many of Smith’s contemporaries would have agreed with him, or at least passively accepted his maps as the best available, but a professional geologist like Hall would certainly not have found his maps “perfectly satisfactory.” In the decades following the Civil War, professional cartographers poured scorn upon such maps, and eventually succeeded in convincing the public that something better was needed.

J.H. French’s Map and Gazetteer of New York State

Many of the surveyors that Smith recruited for his project went on to become important figures in their own right.[36] One of the most important of these was John Homer French (1824-1888), a school teacher and principal, who was engaged by Smith in 1855. Smith was in charge of resurveying several county maps, which were thought to be inadequate for Smith’s project, and (most importantly) he was responsible for compiling a state map and gazetteer, which formed a kind of capstone for the project.

French’s map of the State of New York, which first appeared in 1859, covers the state at a scale of 1:300,000 (see Figures 11.5 and 10.5).[37] It stands as the last in a succession of state maps at similar scales, which includes the previously discussed works by Sauthier, De Witt, Lay, Eddy, Burr, and J. Calvin Smith. The closest comparison is with David Burr’s state map, which was also associated with a project to map New York’s counties The French map,” as it was often called by contemporaries, suffers from many of the problems of its predecessors. It was compiled from the county maps, which were produced at different scales, and lacked adequate geodetic control. Although both Smith and French strived to produce high-quality county maps, there were limits to what they could do with maps based on compass and odometer surveys. The best that can be said of the French map is that it was superior to most state maps produced before the Civil War, and it seems to have been adequate for the purposes for which it was intended. As a wall map, it would have been displayed in schools, offices, public places, and some homes. For the modern researcher, it is useful mainly because it presents a detailed picture of roads and town locations as they existed at the time.

Like the county maps, the French map of New York State was embellished with scenic views and other materials in the margins. The most significant of these supplements are the two thematic maps showing the geology and meteorology of the state, which were discussed in the previous chapter. Many earlier state and county maps included statistical tables, but the meteorological map published by French appears to be the first commercial map of New York State to present statistical information in cartographic form.

As will be seen in the following chapter, French’s map was sharply criticized after the Civil War by the advocates of a topographic survey of New York. A study of the displacements on French’s map indicates that individual towns and county boundaries were sometimes mislocated by as much as two or three miles.[38]

For historians, probably the most useful thing to come out of the French-Smith project was French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York.[39] This is the best of several nineteenth-century gazetteers (or geographical dictionaries) of the state. It is still heavily used by researchers, particularly by local historians and genealogists. It can be used together with French’s map to locate towns and other localities, and it is particularly useful for identifying places whose names have changed. It also provides information about the history, industries, and notable attractions of many of the places it identifies. Because of its usefulness to researchers, it was reprinted in the twentieth century, and supplementary indexes have been prepared of all of the personal names in it, and of place names left out of the original index. It is now also available on the World Wide Web.[40]

The French-Smith project had a lasting influence on both mapping and history writing in New York. One of French’s assistants was Franklin B. Hough (1822 – 1885), who went on to pursue a distinguished career as a naturalist and local historian. French’s assistants also included several members of the Beers family, who became leading producers of county atlases after the Civil War. In addition to the county atlases (which will be discussed in a later chapter), the Beers family was involved in publishing county histories. This connection between county maps and local histories was quite pronounced. Another person associated with the French-Smith project was the young Jay Gould, who later became infamous as the leading financial manipulator of the gilded age. Gould was responsible for both a map and a history of Delaware County. According to Ristow, Gould gathered information for his history while soliciting subscriptions and collecting information for the production of his map.[41]

This close relationship between the production of county maps and local histories in the years between 1850 and 1914 is worth further comment and study. This era was a golden age for local area studies. The causes of this flowering do not seem to have been adequately investigated, but clearly this development owes something to the general interest in history that characterized the nineteenth century. There also appears to have been a wave of nostalgia for the past following the traumas of the Civil War and of rapid industrialization. The residents of rural New York seem to have become sufficiently prosperous and conscious of history to want to memorialize themselves in maps, and also to learn more about their origins.

Another important figure associated with the French-Smith project was Henry Francis Walling (1825-1889). Walling’s early work was in Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England, but in the 1850’s he produced maps of several counties in New York State, including Kings, Queens, Richmond, Ontario, and Wayne. In 1856, Walling set up a “Map Establishment” in New York City, and eventually he published county maps and state atlases covering much of the United States and parts of Canada. After the Civil War, Walling worked for both the U.S. Coast Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey—thus providing in his person a kind of connecting link between commercial mapping and the professionalized “scientific mapping” that came to play an increasingly important role in the cartography of New York State and the nation.[42]

The Civil War brought a temporary halt to major mapping projects in New York. Most surveyors and draftsmen worked for the military during the war, and when the mapping of the state resumed after the war, government-sponsored “scientific mapping” was to play a much larger role.

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