Saturday, February 25, 2017

Plumbago, molybdena, mica and gold: Charles Jackson’s Treasure Map

In a recent blog, we introduced the work of geologist Charles Thomas Jackson on the geology of New Hampshire from the early 19th century. We started with a “View of Chocorua mountain from Chatoque corner, Conway” printed in his 1844 Final Report. We focused on the relationship between art, history and science. 

My title for this blog, “Plumbago, molybdena, mica and gold” refers to some of the economic benefits Jackson evisioned coming from his mapping out New Hampshire’s geology. He literally created a treasure map for the State. 

You can click on the image below to enlarge it and explore the key to some of the symbols he used to identify the location of geological deposits he considered important. In his book he describes these deposits and oh so much more!  

Then when you look at the map itself, you can see how he has applied these symbols as a finding guide for economic exploitation of the landscape.

If you want to explore Jackson's map in detail you can follow this link to Dartmouth's map site where you can zoom in really study it.

As we will see, in later maps, the focus changed from the micro id of potential mines to mapping the larger scale interactions of the bedrock geology. This was facilitated by the transition from Jackson’s relatively rough lines, shapes and symbol cartography to much finer mapping techniques and the use of color.

This obvious difference in the look and appearance of earlier maps compared to later maps was in turn facilitated by improvements in the technology of surveying and measuring the land to get the data used to make the maps.

So let’s take a quick look at how Jackson did his field work. Jackson was certainly “outstanding in his field” and in 1836 the artist Franz Graeter recorded Jackson and his survey party working in Maine.

The following are examples of the kind of tools and equipment Jackson mentioned as using in his books on New Hampshire. To learn more about this fascinating study, drop on by, click or call us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Friday, February 17, 2017

One hundred years ago this month

The Masonic Hall Theatre advertised the film “Where are My Children” on page one of the Reporter, Conway’s local newspaper on February 1, 1917. No children under sixteen years of age were to be admitted. A little internet research tells us that the film dealt with controversial adult themes and social issues of the day. The film played to packed houses throughout the country, except in Pennsylvania where it was banned.

The next week they announced that they were starting a new “family friendly” policy of having a special matinee for ladies and children, with movies free of suggestion of crime, domestic relations and melodrama.

The pair of front page ads shows the dramatic social tensions of the day and the ways they were handled before our more modern system of film ratings.    

In other front page news, from February 8, New Hampshire State Senate killed the suffrage bill, denying women the right to vote.

It was not until page four, that we would read that the United States had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany.

Prohibition was another issue of the day.

As usual there were more column inches about farming than the war raging in Europe, women’s right to vote, or the sale of alcohol.

There was an in-depth article about a new type of butter churn, that used the power of gears and belts to improve on efficiency.

Finally, the Martha Washington tea party was called off due to illness.

So there we are, all the news fit to print from one hundred years ago this month, a combination of social tensions, impending war, and hope for a peace jubilee. In some ways, things really have not changed all that much.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chocorua from Chatoque

Spelled "Chatoque" in the illustration caption published in 1844, with a “q” this area of Conway is more commonly pronounced with a “g.”

However, earlier this week historian Brian Wiggin confirmed that while most people do pronounce it as “Shatagee” is should take on more of a French style sound with the "q."

That debate has been raging since at least 1853 when naturalist Thaddeus William Harris wrote to Edward Tuckerman. He explained that “At North Conway, I became acquainted with old Mr. Willey, the brother of the person of this name, who, with his family, perished by the slide. He gave me some interesting information about this region. I made enquiries concerning the name sometimes given to Conway Corner, & the manner of spelling it. It is not Shategee, though so pronounced. It should be written Chateauguay or Chateaugay.”

The official street sign near there now spells it as “Chatague Lane.” I have found at least 8 other ways of spelling it.

In his letter to Tuckerman, Harris went on to explain that “The origin of its application to Conway corner is comparatively recent, & is thus explained. Soon after the close of the last war with Gr. Britain, a great muster was held at the Corner, in which there was got up a sham fight to represent the skirmish that took place in Oct. 1813 on the Chateauguay in the North Eastern part of New York, a place since known as Chateauguay or Chateaugay, Four Corners. From this circumstance, Conway Corner afterwards got the nom de guerre of Chateaugay, or as ignorantly pronounced Shategee. The facts seem to be so well authenticated, and withal so reasonable, that I have no reason to doubt their correctness.”

It is interesting to think that Conway folks were doing a "sham fight" perhaps, like a historical reenactment of a battle that the Americans lost to the Canadians during the War of 1812. They continue to reenact this battle today near the international border.

A number of period guide books describe “Chatoque” or Conway Corner as a small village with great potential. A map from 1860 shows us some details of Chatoque or Conway Corner with its tannery, post office, Conway House hotel, mills, church, school and shops along with the names of the home owners. For more on Conway Corner see my previous blog.

However, this wood cut view of Chocorua from Chatoque is not from a tourist guide book, map or book of artistic views

It is from a book on geology commissioned by the State of New Hampshire written by Charles Thomas Jackson. It comes from the early 19th century, a time when science, art, and history were not so far apart and as we will see, these disciplines were actually much more connected that today.

This is the first of a number of blogs we will be doing on this geology report. We will look at the book with its study of seeds and soils, mining, milling and manufacturing,  as well as its interesting connections and parallels to Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Cole.

It will also explore the author’s experience with dramatic "economic embarrassment," controversies over ether and the telegraph, shame, insanity and death. It is better than a soap opera, so stay tuned!

But for now, back to the view of Chocorua from Chatoque. You can click on the image at the beginning of the blog to enlarge it. 

In studying White Mountain scenes, I always try to find the original location of the view. Luckily, I see this basic view every work day walking to and from the parking lot and the Conway Public Library. Of course, you can’t always take an artistic rendering as an accurate representation. However, there are clues that the delineator, who is not given credit here, was a good observer and interpreter of the landscape.

In the print, you can clearly see the pyramid shaped cone of Chocorua and the undulating knobs of the “three sisters” to its north (right). If you line up the ridge in the middle ground with the proper peak, you get a pretty good idea that it is from today’s Washington Street and in fact, the building looks a lot like the current White Mountains Hostel.

As we will see, the author, Charles Thomas Jackson, was obsessed with improving maps and getting the angle correct with measurements for his understanding of the landscape, so I feel a connection and kinship with him in many ways (the fun stuff, not the controversies and insanity).

Actually, even with the limitations of the wood cut printing technique, the unknown artist did good job of capturing the contours, land forms, and ridges of the view, even down to the dirt road in the foreground.  As we will see in future blogs, there is lots more to mine in Jackson's work about art, history and science.