About Our 1860 New Jersey Topographical Wall Map

What is the title of the map?

The title of the map is quite a mouthful! This is its full name:

Topographical Map of the State of New Jersey Together with the Vicinities of New York and Philadelphia, and with Most of the State of Delaware from the State Geological Survey and the U.S. Coast Survey, and from Surveys by G. Morgan Hopkins, Civil Engineer

The title is found in the cartouche, the very fancy area of text to the left of Hunterdon County.

How big is it?

The map is meant to be seen easily from most places in a large room, which is why it is called a “wall map.” It also has been used in schools to teach geography. The map measures 70.1 x 58.3 inches (or 178.05 x 148.08 centimeters), not counting the frame. The map’s scale is 1:158,400 or 2 ½ miles to an inch. You can find the scale in the cartouche, right above the vignette of the City of Camden.

Why is this an important map?

Our map is important for a number of reasons, but here are the top 5:

1. Soon after the map was published, the U.S. Civil War began. Because it showed so much topographical detail, it became the “go-to” map for the war’s N.J. participants.

2. The map features detailed street maps of Belvidere, Beverly, Bordentown, Burlington, Camden, Elizabeth, Jersey City/Hoboken, Morristown, Mount Holly, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Newark, Newton, Orange, Paterson, Rahway, Salem, and Trenton. These sub-maps document a very specific time in the history of those N.J. cities.

3. Illustrated views of Camden, Delaware Water Gap, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton, in addition to mapped segments of New Jersey’s borders with Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania provide extraordinary depth to an already exceptional map. These illustrations are important to researchers interested in what these parts of New Jersey looked like prior to the U.S. Civil War.

4. The map is the last, and arguably most important, work of William Kitchell, the second State Geologist of New Jersey. He was a Morris County native who died the year after the map was published.

5. A rarity on a map, the Time Dial shows the time in select cities when it is 12 o’clock in Trenton. This tool predates the launch of Standard Time in 1883.

Why was the map conserved?

Our map required extensive conservation treatment, and thanks to a generous donation from Friends of the Chester Library, we were able to have the map conserved by the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia (CCAHA).

Before treatment

The map had been backed with linen fabric and varnished. The varnish had made the map very yellow and opaque in some areas. It had cracked as it aged and become brittle. However, the varnish protected the ink and watercolors used in the printed and hand-painted sections of the map. The map also had been attached to two painted, black wooden rails, although the bottom rail had detached from the map.

Because the map had been sewn to the linen fabric and stored rolled in an acidic cardboard box for many years, some of the paper cracked and suffered from tears and loss. Like many maps of the mid-19th century, our map is made from four pieces of machine-made wood-pulp paper. Over time, the paper had become acidic, brittle, and distorted in areas. Finally, the map had a layer of embedded dirt, fly-specks, and other stains.

Each layer of the map — the fabric backing, the paste holding it together, the paper, and the varnish — responded differently to changes in environmental conditions. Imagine the constant changes in temperature and humidity in the environment causing each element to expand and contract at different rates. Add the rolling and unrolling of the map, and you have a recipe for the kind of damage shown in the tears of the map.

The CCAHA created a treatment plan for the map with the goals of stabilizing it to prevent further deterioration and making it safe to exhibit.

Conservation treatment

The conservators first cleaned the face of the map (what they would call the “recto” – the back is called the “verso”) with a special eraser. Then, they removed the rails. Next, the experts tested the paper and ink to ensure that they would not be affected by the solvents used in cleaning. CCAHA used ethanol to reduce as much of the varnish as possible. You can see remnants of the varnish discoloration in the darker portions of the map. The conservators built a special tray just to fit our map and used it to submerge the map within successive ethanol baths. The ethanol did not dissolve the paste, so they bathed the map in pure, deionized water to dissolve the paste and remove some discoloration from the paper. Because the watercolors used in hand-coloring the map typically become less soluble as they age, they were stable in both the ethanol and the water.

At this point, the conservators were able to remove the linen from the paper, as well as any residual adhesive. Next, they replaced the linen with a fine mulberry paper to increase the support and protection of the map. Mulberry paper is made from long fibers, which makes the thin paper very strong. The conservators used a purified form of wheat starch paste as the adhesive.

To ensure that the map would dry correctly and adhere to the new lining well, it was dried under tension. That technique requires the professionals to create equal tension on all sides of the map to prevent any distortion of the image or the paper itself. The conservators then cut papers they had toned to match the map and used them to fit the largest areas of loss in the map. You can see one example in the upper left corner of the map within the floral border.  CCAHA also used watercolors and colored pencils to “inpaint” some of the flowered border, but they did not make any alterations to the cartography.

Lastly, the conservators housed the map within the frame. They first created hinges with mulberry paper and wheat starch paste that they adhered to the map and a rigid, alkaline support. Then, they used toned, paper-wrapped spacers to create space between the map and the glazing (scratch-resistant, static-free, ultraviolet-filtering acrylic). Next, they sealed the backing board, map, spacers, and glazing with a polyester and aluminum foil material called Marvelseal. It’s a pretty amazing material that is impervious to moisture and dirt. Therefore, the map is protected from changes in humidity, as well as damaging effects of certain wavelengths of light. Finally, the conservators placed the sealed package in that lovely black frame with the red trim.

To view the map, click on this link:  1860 New Jersey Topographic Map. Note: the file size is 25 MB.

*Special thanks to Mary Broadway, formerly of the Conservation Center for Art and History Artifacts for her treatment summary.