This detailed and decorative wall map of Dartmouth, Massachusetts presents a prosperous and well settled coastal Massachusetts town in 1856. The Map of the Town of Dartmouth shows its 27 numbered School Districts and is illustrated with six pictorial vignettes, including the J. Cummings Stone Mill, the 1st Congregational Church, B.T. Cummings' Store and Wm. Cummings' House, the Matthews, Meshow & Co.'s Ship Yard, the Apponagansett Bridge and the School House in District No. 10. There are four inset maps, the largest one being of densely settled South Dartmouth that identifies the Toll House at the Aponagansett Bridge and the Matthews, Meshow Ship Yard; and the smaller inset maps provide a closer look at Russell Mills, Hicksville and Smith Mills. Natural features shown on the map include the north/south coursing Fresh River, the Little River, Clark's Cove and its Ice House, Slocum's or Paskamansett River and on the Atlantic Coast Buzzard's Bay. Hills are shown with hachures. Large areas of forest are indicated with hand drawn trees. Swampy lands are labeled and the map shows lowland vegetation. The map is scarce and may be found in certain institutional collections, including the Leventhal Map Collection and Harvard University.
While there is no railroad within the town borders, the Taunton & New Bedford R.R. passes just north of the northern tip of town, with access from Dartmouth (presumably to a stop or station) by a small road drawn with hatch marks. Roads are indicated with solid lines and with hatch marks, suggesting primary and secondary routes. Homeowners and property owners' names describe the many homes, buildings, stores, schools and factories throughout the town. A few churches are labeled and notably there are three Friends Churches, one each in District No. 14, 21 and 27. One intriguing feature is the Observatory Rock in District No. 21. The presence of the Ship Yard and Dartmouth's coastal location, its extensive road networks and north south flowing rivers would have been unspoken illustrations to Dartmouth residents and local viewers of the ease of navigation by ship in both fresh and salt water. Along the southern coast, the map labels various points including Barney's Joy Point. The Light House at Dumpling Rocks is drawn and labeled. At Ricketson's Point a Salt Works is drawn and named in District 18. There is a larger salt works in District 23.
In 1856 Dartmouth had a remarkable number of school districts for a Massachusetts town. The residents of Dartmouth had the desire and means to support a large public school system. The many shingle and saw mills, its ship yards, salt works and merchant's shops, all graphic elements of this map also explain the Town's culture and economy.
Just over the Dartmouth and Westport town border, certain details of Westport are drawn on the map, including home owner names and certain businesses.
Henry Walling, as Superintendent of the State Map, oversaw the surveying and mapping of all of Massachusetts, either by county or by town according to an Act of the Massachusetts Legislature. The wall map of Dartmouth is part of this project and therefore represents both a survey of the land, and a broader survey of the settlement and economy, the cultural institutions and the distinctive physical features of each town. The entire composition of the Map of the Town of Dartmouth is further enhanced by its complex decorative and geometric border, its shell work corners and other fine scrollwork making this both a substantive cartographic record and a fine decorative 19th c. work of art.