Saturday, December 3, 2011

Boston and the Country Adjacent, 1894

Since my wife and I are heading back to the Boston area for a holiday party this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to do a brief post on an item with links to Boston. The item in question is a Map of Boston and the Country Adjacent, From Actual Surveys, published by the firm of Damrell & Upham, located at 283 Washington Street in Boston – the self-titled “Boston Map Store” – in 1894. This version of the map was essentially a reprint of the 1892 map published by George H. Walker & Company. 

As travel became easier for more and more members of the general public, the turn of the century saw a marked increase in the number of pocket maps showing routes that could be travelled by bicycle, train, or the new automobile. The technologies used to survey land and measure distances were also improving exponentially.

The map folds out to approximately 62cm x 90cm and is on a flimsy stock. For protection, one corner of it was pasted into boards of pebbled brown cloth with blue paper on the interior (10.5cm x 17cm). This binding – really more of a folder – bears the gilded title “Damrell & Upham’s New Road Map of Country Around Boston”. Inside the front cover is an advertisement for the store:

Boston Map Store
Damrell & Upham,
“Old Corner Bookstore,”
283 Washington, cor. of School St.,
Where everything in the way of Maps may be found.

Beneath this runs an advertisement for the map in question:
We have just published
of the
Useful for Driving, Wheeling, Walking, Boating and Fishing Purposes.

The map was sold in two sizes: a large version for wall mounting and spanning thirty miles north and south from the city, and a smaller version for pocket use and spanning fifteen miles north and south. Mine is of this second version; it retailed for 50 cents (about $13 in today’s money).

The map itself is colored to demarcate the borders between towns. It also shows parks (in green) and bicycling routes (in red). The scale is one-inch to the mile, and the area covered stretches from north Salem down to Cohasset and from the islands of Boston Harbor (all the way out to Outer Brewster) to Sudbury in the west. There is some slight damage to my copy – a modest tear on two of the folds and the complete separation of most of the map from the folder in which it was once pasted (the corner that was pasted into the folder – consisting mostly of Acton – is still glued into the folder). The pebbled cover has some marks that are likely the result of having been reinforced by tape at one point. Many of the corners of the folds have also been reinforced in the back with scotch tape.

As with all old maps, the best part of this Damrell & Upham map is casting an eye over known landmarks, seeing what was once there, what is still there, and how much the land with which I’m so familiar has changed over the years. I don’t know who owned this copy, or whether they used it for “wheeling” (bicycling) or perhaps fishing, but its damage indicates that it did certainly see use in its day.

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