White Mountain Prints and Graphics



                                   J.F. Kensett, Mount Washinton, 1851, Widely Distributed by The American Art Union 

Depictions of the White Mountains 
in the Popular Press 

                                                                                                                              Georgia B. Barnhill

                                                       Director, Center for Historic American Visual Culture

                                                                    American Antiquarian Society              


In his book Sacred Places, an analysis of American tourist attractions of the nineteenth century, John Sears argues that tourism "demands a body of images and descriptions of those places--a mythology of unusual things to see--to excite people's imaginations and to induce them to travel."[i]  Printed images defined and described the White Mountains for a variety of audiences in the nineteenth century.  Publishers commissioned and issued these prints as illustrations for books and periodicals and as separately published prints to be framed and displayed in private or public spaces. The range of printed imagery of the White Mountains is vast encompassing the small vignette on a billhead or advertisement, illustrations in guide books and on maps, birds-eye views of cities and towns, reproductions of paintings and drawings in literary works, and separately published prints suitable for framing in parlors of visitors yearning for their summer paradise.  


            In her book, Pastoral Inventions, Sarah Burns suggests why all of these prints, although considered minor to some people, particularly when compared to the sumptuous landscape paintings of the same era, are important documents to collect and study.  She notes that the popular arts, particularly periodical illustrations and separately published lithographs, "were and are agents for the broadest diffusion of ideas and images."  She also observes "In nineteenth-century America the line between 'popular' and 'academic' was fluid and undefined.  The same subjects appear in paintings, popular prints, and magazine illustrations."[ii]  The audience reached by prints issued in books and periodicals was enormous, particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  In 1860 there were some 100,000 subscribers to Harper's Weekly, mostly members of the business and professional classes, residing in cities and their suburbs.[iii] Sue Rainey recently concluded perhaps as many as one million copies of Picturesque America, first published in the 1870s, were circulating by 1900.[iv]  The editions of lithographs issued by Currier & Ives and Louis Prang numbered in the thousands of impressions.  



The earliest printed views of the White Mountains appeared on the 1816 map of New Hampshire compiled by Philip Carrigain.  The Gap of the White Mountains shows Crawford Notch. The second view, taken from Shelburne, shows Alpine peaks rising precipitously in a rather fantastic way.  A variation of this view, attributed to the landscape artist James Kidder, was published in the Gazetteer of New Hampshire in 1823.  Early estimates of the elevation of Mount Washington were over 10,000 feet are reflected in the soaring peaks.

            Cartographers contributed to the visual documentation of the region.  Large county maps produced in the middle of the century occasionally were illustrated with vignettes of hotels and landscape images.  Typical of this genre are the maps of Coos County and Grafton County.  Tourist maps of the region proliferated, particularly due to the efforts of Franklin Leavitt (1824-98), a guide born in or near Lancaster where he resided most of his adult life working for hotel owners and others. In the 1850s he started guiding tourists up the mountain, providing bits and pieces of local lore and personal anecdotes.[v]  His first map appeared in 1852, with interesting pictorial embellishments. He published seven maps in all, each of which combines fact and fiction. They show a universe centered around Leavitt and the early history of the region as he perceived it.  He was the publisher, not just the cartographer, of the maps and aimed his productions at tourists, arriving in ever increasing numbers as the second half of the century progressed. In contrast, cartographers such as George Bond and Harvey Boardman provided topographically accurate renditions of the region.  Bond or his publisher even commissioned five scenes by the artist Benjamin Champney.  They include views of Mount Washington, Echo Lake, Crystal Falls, Glen Ellis Falls, and Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams from the Glen House.  



    A significant series of prints was made for Charles T. Jackson's Final Report on the Geology and Mineralogy of the State of New Hampshire published in 1844.  Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1896), a recent graduate of Yale with an interest in chemistry and geology, joined Jackson's survey team in the summer of 1840.[vi]  The lithographs and wood engravings in the published volume are precise renderings lacking the emotional response to the landscape that we have come to expect from the works of painters.


            Four years after the publication of the state geology came William Oakes' Scenery of the White Mountains.  This portfolio of sixteen full-page lithographs reproduces drawings by Isaac Sprague. Oakes wrote in the preface: "From the beginning it has been his [the author's] principal object to obtain the most accurate and characteristic representations of the scenery of the White Mountains, with their true outlines, and their very rocks, trees, and plants.  To fulfil these wishes, he has spared no exertion or expense, and the excellent and accurate artist who has made and finished the drawings, Mr. Isaac Sprague, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has labored with the utmost patience and good will."[vii] This publication was issued in several editions and certainly publicized some of the landmarks which became standard, almost iconic images, in series of prints issued by other publishers.    



During the 1840s, the growing network of railroads facilitated access to the White Mountains.[viii]  Portland was served by rail by 1842 and in 1851 the Atlantic & St. Lawrence railroad ran through Gorham from Portland.  Illustrated guidebooks and visual materials of all kinds proliferated to help the new generation of tourists become acclimated to the geography of the White Mountains



Even sheet music was published with White Mountain allusions as seen on the covers of the Dinner Bell Polka and the Supper Bell Polka composed by P. S. Gilmore in 1853.  These pieces of parlor music were presumably distributed in the newly opened hotel in Crawford Notch.  A decade later was published White Mountain Echoes, with an array of vignettes of familiar sights. 



The tourist trade in the White Mountains resulted in the printing of advertising cards, menus, letterheads, billheads, and small letterpress advertisements for hotels and other accommodations.  Many of these items were printed locally in the region, as opposed to most of the other items seen here that were printed in Boston or New York.  The most charming artifacts are the small-engraved cards advertising hotels. Engraved and printed ephemera facilitated the conducting of business.  


During the latter half of the nineteenth century, bird's eye views became a popular genre of prints.  Although we consider the region of the White Mountains to be rural, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, some of the towns were in fact bustling centers of economic activity, mainly centered around timber products and, of course, tourism.  Bird's eye views are essentially present a townscape as seen from the air, so that building facades are visible, as are the patterns of streets.  The first views of New Hampshire appeared in 1875 and at least sixty-six views depicting fifty-eight towns and cities appeared before the end of the century.[ix]  Among the communities within the White Mountains for which such views exist are Bartlett, Bethlehem, Colebrook, Berlin, Conway, Gorham, and Littleton


The images we have to seen to this point are the works of topographical draftsmen whose aims are very different from artists who seek to imbue their works with their emotional and spiritual response to nature.  The first artists to come to the White Mountains to sketch were the amateur Daniel Wadsworth (1771-1848) and Thomas Cole (1801-1848).  Wadsworth was Cole's friend and patron, and traveled in the region with Theodore Dwight in 1826. Two views by Wadsworth are Avalanches in the White Mountains and Notch in the White Mountains issued in Dwight's Sketches of Scenery and Manners in the United States in 1829.


            It was Wadsworth who urged Cole to visit the region in 1827.[x]  Thomas Cole visited the White Mountains for the second time in 1828 with another artist, Henry Cheever Pratt.  Pratt was a native of New Hampshire and traveled through Crawford Notch in 1826 just after the tragedy that killed the Willey family.  The two artists were drawn to the region, in part, by the recent Willey disaster.  Cole produced one of the finest lithographs produced in America up to 1830 after his return to New York at the lithography shop of Anthony Imbert.  An engraving after Pratt's view was published in The Token: The Christmas and New Year's Present in the fall of 1827. This engraving accompanies "A Bridal in the Early Settlements," a tale about early New Hampshire couple that concludes with a comparison to the death of the Willey family.  Pratt's version of the site is devoid of the drama and tension of Cole's.           

         Two years later Goodrich published Cole's Chocorua's Curse in The Token for 1830. A view of Lake Winnipesaukee looking north towards Mount Chocorua and Mount Washington was published in William Cullen Bryant's The American Landscape in 1830 Other views by Cole's early New Hampshire views appeared in John H. Hinton's History and Topography of the United States of America, first published in London in 1831 with American editions appearing in 1836 and 1856. Cole visited the region several other times, returning for the last time in 1839, and views of the White Mountains figure prominently in his oeuvre.


            William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) traveled through North America in the 1830s sketching scenery in preparation for Nathaniel P. Willis' American Scenery: or Land, Lake, and River Illustrations of Transatlantic Nature published in London by George Virtue in 1836 and 1837.  First published in parts, American Scenery was reprinted in two volumes in 1840 and several times thereafter.  This was in a sense a travel guide; albeit the most elegant one of that genre. Print publishers in the United States published reproductions of Bartlett's views frequently and his depictions were the basis of many Americans' knowledge about the scenery of their nation. They spawned hundreds of imitations in print, watercolor, and oil, often without credit to the original artist, and were influential in disseminating information about the landscape and cities that he depicted, even though some of that information was false.  At least one of the Currier & Ives prints of the White Mountains copied Bartlett's view of the Notch House.  It was also copied and published by the Kellogg lithography firm in Hartford and in The Ladies Repository in the issue of October 1847.


            Benjamin Champney (1817-1907) arrived in Boston from Lebanon, New Hampshire, in 1834 and trained in the William Pendleton’s lithography company and its successor run by Thomas Moore. Among his acquaintances in Boston were several artists including Alvan Fisher, Thomas Doughty, Robert Salmon, and George Loring Brown.  These men were active painting landscapes and marine subjects. In Paris, he met among others John W. Casilear, Asher B. Durand, and John F. Kensett, all of whom would become active in the White Mountains. Engravings after works by Brown and Casilear are found in The Gallery of Landscape Painters.  Champney visited North Conway in 1850 with Kensett and Casilear and later settled in Conway where many artists joined him.    


            Millions of Americans were introduced to their country through the medium of William Cullen Bryant's Picturesque America or the Land We Live In published by D. Appleton & Co., 1872 to 1874.  Twenty-five of the articles including the one on the White Mountains were illustrated by Harry Fenn (1845-1911), an English-born wood engraver who turned to drawing by the time he was twenty. Fenn adds interest to many of his images by including genre scenes that enliven the commentary and the scenery.


            The number of artists who were active in the region continued to increase and engravings and lithographs after their sketches and paintings found their way into the hands of a multitude of book publishers.         



As tourism to the White Mountains expanded in the 1850s, the region was featured in a number of articles in periodicals. One of the earliest was by William McLeod who wrote and illustrated an essay, "The Summer Tourist--Scenery of the Franconia Mountains, N.H." for the June 1852 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine.  Many similar essays appeared in the magazine's pages suggesting summer excursions to other places. Two pages of the August 9, 1856, issue of Ballou's Pictorial, published in Boston, were devoted to the White Mountains. The uppermost image on the left, depicts the "Carriage Road, Mount Washington."  Although the coach does bear the legend, "Mt. Washington," on its side, we might wonder about the building that stands where the Summit House should.  The text explains that that building was "designed to supersede" the other buildings on the summit, but it was never constructed in that style.[xi]  "A Season at the White Mountains" was issued anonymously in Putnam's Monthly in July 1857.  This essay featured genre scenes in addition to the more traditional, and increasingly familiar, landscapes.  The illustrated anecdotes were humorous in nature as befitted their creator, John McLenan, who became known for his ability to illustrate humor.


            Courtland Hoppin provided vignettes of tourists in New Hampshire for the August 13, 1859, issue of Harper's Weekly. One particularly nice detail is the newsboy distributing a copy of Harper's Weekly to the gentleman with his umbrella.  A passenger on the top deck also reads the magazine.   Year after year, Harper's Weekly introduced its readers to the popular resorts on the east coast.  

            The growing interest in the fine arts during the nineteenth century resulted in the publication of specialized journals.  One of them, The Aldine, issued in New York in the 1870s, incorporated wood engravings after landscape paintings in its pages.  Typical of them are "A White Mountain Brook" by Homer Martin published in November 1873 and "Profile Mountain" after David Johnson published in July 1876. The editor also notes appropriately that the streams in the region "afford the art-student an inexhaustible supply of studies."[xii]         

      "It has become an acknowledged principle, that the best mementoes which travelers can carry home from a far country are pictures of the scenery and architecture which are there found, wherewith fading memories may be refreshed, and pleasant associations revived."[xiii]  So wrote M. F. Sweetser in his photographic view book of the White Mountains published in 1879. Among the most popular pictures that issued forth were the hand-colored lithographs of Currier & Ives.  Some of the prints are so generic, like Echo Lake and the Silver Cascade, that one could question whether or not the view is factual.  Others were more specific, but bore incorrect titles, such as Artists Creek, which should be Artist's Brook. The view of Lake Winnipisaukee copies one of the Bartlett engravings. Currier & Ives marketed their prints throughout the United States and at their shop in New York.  We can be confident that they exploited the tourist market by ensuring that their prints were available in the White Mountains

            Some hotel owners published views of their establishments to advertise them in cities like Boston, Portland, and New York.  Typical of this genre are the views of the Pemigewasset House and the Kearsarge House in North Conway, where so many artists congregated.


            John H. Bufford published a series of small lithographs of the White Mountains including The Summit of Mount Washington and The Basin in the 1860s.  The small scale of these suggests their appropriateness as souvenirs.


            In the post-Civil War period, the firm of Louis Prang in Boston issued chromolithographs that when varnished and framed resembled oil paintings.  Late Autumn in the White Mountains reproduces a painting by Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837?-1908). Harvest North Conway reproduces a work by Benjamin B. G. Stone. Stone received $50 from Prang for the painting that netted the firm some $100,000.  It was the most popular chromolithograph ever published by the firm.[xiv]  Thousands of impressions of it must have made their way into homes, offices, stores, and hotels across the country.          

  This array of imagery demonstrates John Sears' assertion about the role of publishers in the selling of a tourist region to the public.  Even Lucy Crawford remarked on the availability of so many of these depictions.  "So great has become the celebrity of the many objects of attraction about these hills that the walls of the parlors of private families are decorated with a painting of one or more of the most prominent curiousities [sic]--the windows in the cities of the principal vendors of lithographic views are filled."[xv]   Publishers of prints, books, maps, and even music provided pictorial souvenirs for tourists, publicized the scenic qualities of the mountains, and presumably reaped the profits.


This essay is based on a presentation given at the Fifth Annual Mount Washington Observatory Symposium: Images of the Hill: The Visual Arts and the White Mountains, 1820-1920.  The proceedings of this conference were published in A Suburb of Paradise: The White Mountains and the Visual Arts, volume 54, numbers 3 & 4 of Historical New Hampshire, Fall-Winter, 1999.  [xvi]   (Several additional images, and artists, mentioned in this esay, will be found on other pages on this website.)  



[i]. John F. Sears, Sacred Places American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 3.

[ii]. Sarah Burns, Pastoral Inventions. Rural Life in Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,s 1989), p. 7.

[iii]. Burns, Pastoral Inventions, p. 7.

[iv]. Sue Rainey, Creating Picturesque America (Nashville and London: Vanderbilt University Press, 1994), p. 274.

[v]. The fullest account of Leavitt's life and work is David Tatham's essay, "Franklin Leavitt's Pictorial Maps of the White Mountains" in Prints of New England, Georgia B. Barnhill, ed. (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1991), pp. 105-34.  All the maps are reproduced.  Professor Tatham sets Leavitt's maps in a larger pictorial context in his essay, "The Iconography of the Early White Mountain Resort Hotels, 1852-1875: Prints, Photographs, and Maps," in The Grand Resort Hotels and Tourism in the White Mountains, pp. 67-80.

[vi]. Catherine H. Campbell, New Hampshire Scenery (Canaan, N.H.: Phoenix Publishing, 1985), pp. 173-4.

[vii]. William Oakes, Scenes of the White Mountains (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1848), p. [iii].

[viii]. See Guy Gosselin's article, "Going North--Transportation and Tourism in the White Mountains," in The Grand Resort Hotels and Tourism in the White Mountains, Bryant Tolles, ed. (Concord: New Hampshire Historical Society, 1995), pp. 39-50.

[ix]. David Ruell, The Bird's Eye Views of New Hampshire: 1876-1899, Concord, N.H.: The New Hampshire Historical Society, 1983, p. 4.  This catalogue is extremely informative about the creation and publication of these views.

[x]. Catherine H. Campbell, "Two's Company: The Diaries of Thomas Cole and Henry Cheever Pratt on Their Walk through Crawford Notch, 1828" in Historical New Hampshire 33 (Winter 1978): 310.

[xi]. Ballou's Pictorial 11 (August 9, 1859): 89.

[xii]. The Aldine 6 (November 1873): 218.

[xiii]. M. F. Sweetser, Views in the White Mountains (Portland: Chisholm Brothers, 1879), p. 3

[xiv]. Campbell, New Hampshire Scenery, p. 160.

[xv]. Quoted by Barbara J. McAdam in "A Sweet Foretaste of Heaven" Artists in the White Mountains 1830-1930 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1988), p. 34.





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