Map of Boston for 1888.

Map of Boston for 1888. Published Expressly for the Boston Directory, By Sampson, Murdock, & Co.
Sampson, Author
color lithograph
Professionally conserved
professionally conserved, backed on Japanese tissue
34.5 × 28.5 inches
Sale Status: 

This detailed neighborhood and street map of the City of Boston as it neared the last decade of the 19th century was published by Sampson, Murdock,  & Co. for the visitor to Boston, or Boston resident who wanted to navigate the city with confidence, there being no other means to learn the streets, ways and neighborhoods of a rapidly evolving Boston.  This map and the directory accompanying it belong to a book format with a long publishing history in Boston that began in 1789 with John Norman.1/  Mary Sampson, the president of Sampson Publishing Company began publishing a Boston Directory with George Adams as Adams, Sampson, & Co. as early as 1858 up until 1865. Beginning in 1866, as Sampson, Davenport, & Co. her firm published a large scale map of Boston based on surveys to accompany annual editions of the Boston Directory until 1884. This format of a map and directory provided a list of residents and a map of the geographic and architectural changes in the city for that year, and Boston over that twelve year period as it experienced population growth, an expanding economy and tourism. Boston's population in 1790, of 18,320 residents had by 1880 grown to 362, 839 residents, in a city that had annexed by plebiscite Roxbury in 1868, Dorchester in 1870, Brighton in 1874 along with West Roxbury and Charlestown.

Beginning in 1885, as Sampson, Murdock,  & Co., the firm published both a large scale, colored map and a street and city directory produced by William Edwards Murdock. 2/ The 1888 map presented here by that firm was drawn in large scale to permit street level detail.  Each neighborhood within Boston is labeled and colored in contrasting hues to permit a person to travel confidently within the city, map in hand a considerable distance.  City Hall is the reference point in the map and as the map legend states "Circles show half mile distances from City Hall." Using circles as a graphic device on the map was a visually helpful cue for estimating travel time and distance in a city that had grown to 448,477 residents by 1890. Means of expanded transportation by land and water are noted on the map. 

This map is a good historical description of late 19th century Boston. Taken in context with the entire series of Sampson's 19th century Boston maps both three decades before and one decade after this 1888 map, the viewer comes to understand through these Sampson published maps Boston's geographic expansion by creating new land with fill and its population growth and economic expansion that by 1900 produced a city of over a half million residents. Compared with Boston's neighborhood street plans today, the Sampson, Murdock, & Co. 1888 map also provides a recognizable map for current residents and walkers seeking aspects of old Boston.

This 1888 Sampson, Murdock, & Co. map of Boston is found in institutional collections, including the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and the Boston Athenaeum, the Library of Congress and other institutional map collections.


1. For a comprehensive collection of Boston Directories, please see the collection of the Boston Athenaeum and its Digital Collections, 1789 to 1900.

2. By 1910, their firm was known as Sampson & Murdock.

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