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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Hitchcock's Relief Map of New Hampshire: A New Discovery


SOME five years ago I wrote a series of articles about Professor Charles H. Hitchcock and his three large relief maps of New Hampshire and Vermont. 1 The Dartmouth College and University of New Hampshire maps depict both states and are constructed or the same principle:

The base topography [is] built up of layers of carefully shaped wood, nailed together and mounted on a backing of wide boards. The structure then [is] overlaid with a thin coating of plaster and painted to show- geological and cultural information. 2

They can be mounted either horizontally or vertically. The third map, the one in Concord, depicts only New Hampshire but it is molded of plaster of Paris on wooden frames so that it must be kept horizontal. Furthermore, the vertical scale of this third map is not very uniform and has an odd value compared with those of the first two maps. Little did I realize that this map was not made by Professor Hitchcock as I had assumed.

Recently, much to her astonishment, State Curator Nancy C. Muller of the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources learned of still another large relief map of New Hampshire which has been stored away in one of the state Highway Department garages for many years. She writes:

The newly- discovered map seems to be in two sections, mounted on a handsome wooden frame. It has been crated, with wide slats covering the top. I had only a few slats removed so that I could see the map more clearly. but there is no question about what it is. How it got to this garage. reposing among new truck tires and vehicular parts remains a mystery but the old-timers at the garage claim it has been there as long as they have. It appears to be in relatively good condition except for dirt. One mountain top had cracked off in the portion I saw exposing the wood under a thin plaster overcoat .3

It is signed and dated 'C. H. Hitchcock, State Geologist, 1877' and under that are written the horizontal and vertical scales: `1 mile to an inch; hgts. 1000 feet to an inch.' 4

Curator Muller also found that, in addition to the $200 authorized by the joint resolution of the New Hampshire Senate and House on 18 July 1876, to pay for the map, these same bodies adopted a second resolution on 28 June 1877, to pay $105 'for extra work on the relief map of the state.' 5 We must conclude that this is the map Hamilton Child tells us commanded so much attention at the State House in Concord when it was displayed there in the 1880's.6

Now we have mystery! Who made the plaster model of New Hampshire and for what purpose! Was it made by the W.P.A. for the Department of Transportation in the 1930's as some people suggest? We leave these questions for someone else to answer. It is enough to have resolved the mystery of Professor Hitchcock's relief map of New Hampshire.


1. Allen L. King, 'Hitchcock's Relief Map at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876.' Dartmouth College Library Bulletin n.s. 25 (1984): 21-24; 'Hitchcock's Relief Models of New Hampshire and Vermont,' Dartmouth College Library Bulletin n.s. 25 (1985): 101-104; Hitchcock's "Lost" Relief Map, Dartmouth College Library Bulletin n. s. 26 (1985): 31-36.

2. King, `Hitchcock's Relief Models,' p. 102.

3. Nancy C. Muller to Allen L. King, 18 December 1989.

4. Nancy C. Muller to Allen L. King, 23 lanuary 1990.

5. Nancy C. Muller to Allen L. King, 23 January 1990.

6. Hamilton Child, Gazetteer of Grafton County, 'N.H. 1709-1886 (Syracuse: The Syracusi Journal.1886), 336.