This item below has been sold, but another example (left) is available. To view the available item, click "Details."

Details 1889 Ewer Map of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts w/ Old Colony Line Ad
1889 (undated) $900.00

1886 Large Scale Ewer / Swain Map of Nantucket, Massachusetts

Historical Map of Nantucket. - Main View

1886 Large Scale Ewer / Swain Map of Nantucket, Massachusetts


'The largest, best-known and most useful Nantucket map.' -Crosby



Historical Map of Nantucket.
  1886 (undated)     28 x 42 in (71.12 x 106.68 cm)     1 : 31680


An impressive c. 1886 large scale wall map of Nantucket, Massachusetts. This map is a later, much-enlarged Joseph B. Swain issue of Reverend Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer's (1826 - 1883), seminal 1869 map of Nantucket. It was likely made to promote the Nantucket Hotel, which opened 2 years earlier. According to Nantucket historian, Everett U. Crosby, this is 'The largest, best-known and most useful Nantucket map.' The map is richly detailed and expressive of Nantucket's topography, road system, railroad lines, and even political breakdown. It shows swamps, ponds, important hotels and lighthouses, hills, and more. Some references are dated and correspond to a table located at center.
The Ewer Map
The Nantucket historian Joseph Garver provides an excellent description
Ewer’s map provides a detailed synopsis of Nantucket’s history, beginning with Gosnold’s sighting of the island in 1602. The chronological table identifies the major stages in Nantucket’s development-its early settlement and land divisions, the evolution from shore to deep-sea whaling, the establishment of religious and educational institutions, and the development of the transportation network connecting Nantucket with the mainland (and Nantucketers with one another). Ewer also notes events that marked the transition from one era to the next-the first island whaler to seek its prey in the Pacific (1791), the death of the last Indian (1822), the great fires of 1836 and 1846, and the first gaslight in 1854. In more graphic form the map indicates the sites of old settlements and burial grounds, as well as the boundaries of sachem rights, the former shoreline, old fishing stages, and whaling stations. (Garver, G. Surveying the Shore, p. 115.)
The Present Map
The present map was introduced by J. B. Swain in or around 1886. It is almost certainly a promotional piece associated with the Hotel Nantucket, shown here on Brant Point. The hotel was a response to growing 'summering' interest around Nantucket and was the first major hotel on the island. We know Swain was a Nantucket hotelier in his final years, so his association with the Hotel Nantucket, while not fully verified, is almost certain. We also know that the hotel was built on 'Society of Friends' land, and that Swain was closely associated with the 'Friends' in Nantucket. In any case, Swain massively enlarged the rather modest Ewer map to an impressive 28 x 43, inches, making it the largest 19th century map of Nantucket. He further updated it to reflect recent changes on the island, including the construction of the Hotel Nantucket, the Nantucket Railroad from the harbor to Surfside and on to Siasconset, and life-saving stations at Coskata and Muskeget Island. He also notes, in 1877, the 'Great Temerance Movement.' The table of historical events has been updated to 1886 and reflects these and other developments.
Publication History and Census
Originally drawn and published by Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer in 1869. The present example was updated by Joseph B. Swain and lithographed by J. Ottmann (Puck Building) around 1886. Examples are scarce and typically in poor condition.


Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer (1826 - 1883) was born on May 22nd of 1926 in town of Nantucket on the Massachusetts island of the same name. Ewer's father, a prominent Nantucket businessman, moved his family to Providence Rhode Island when Ferdinand was three and then, further afield, to New York City. It was not until his 13th year that Ewer returned to Nantucket where he would remain until 1844 when was matriculated at Harvard. There he grew intellectually and strayed from his religiously ideological upbringing, embracing atheism. Shortly following his graduation in 1848, Ewer, like many others, was drawn westward by the lure of the California Gold Rush. "I have no gold fever," he says pathetically in his diary, "I only desire not to starve." In San Francisco he worked as a clerk in the claims office and later as newspaper reporter with The Alta Californian. In a tale typical of the Wild West, a bar room conversation in a mining town inspired Ewer to change his life, abandon his atheism, and became a Reverend of the Episcopal Church. As Reverend, Ewer generated a popular following in San Francisco. Nonetheless, in time he decided to move back to the east coast and, eventually, became the rector of New York City's Christ's Church. A highly educated man, Ferdinand devoted much of his intellectual energy in reconciling the positions of science with religion. To the chagrin of his Episcopalian superiors, Ewer believed that the premises of Darwinism, astronomy, and medicine were in fact compatible his faith. Eventually, Ewer's scientific leanings drove him from the Christ Church, at which point he established the New York church of St. Ignatius of Antioch, where he remained to his death in 1883. It was sometime during his tenure in New York that Ewer composed his famous map of Nantucket. Learn More...

Joseph B. Swain (December 31, 1814 - June 17, 1888) was a Nantucket tinsmith, businessman, and insurance agent based in Nantucket, Massachusetts in the middle part of the 19th century. Swain was born and lived most of his life in Nantucket, where he had an insurance business. Later in his life, recognizing Nantucket's allure for tourists, he constructed and managed a hotel, almost certainly the Hotel Nantucket, constructed on Brant Point in 1884. Most likely, promotion of his hotel was what prompted Swain to engage in his only cartographic endeavor, the production of a large sale reissue of Ferdinand Cartwright Ewer's iconic 1869 map of Nantucket. Swain was a teetotaler and a 'birthright member of the Society of Friends.' He died after a brief illness at 73. Learn More...

Mayer, Merkel and Ottmann (1869 - 1901) was a New York City based lithography firm founded in New York by the German immigrants Vincent Mayer and August Merkel. Merkel and Mayer initially worked under 'Ferdinand Mayer and Company', before founding their own publishing partnership in 1869 as 'Mayer and Markel.' The Prussian immigrant Jacob Ottmann (1849 - 1890) joined the firm shortly thereafter and, when he had built up enough equity, became a partner. The firm officially changed to 'Mayer, Merkel and Ottmann' in 1874. The concern specialized in highly graphic color printed trade cards, and, by the 1800s, were a major American lithographic firm. Mayer and Merkel retired in 1885, leaving the firm to Ottmann, who renamed it 'J. Ottmann Lithographic' and in 1886 relocated to the Puck Building at 39 E. Houston Street. Around this time, he began to publish the weekly magazine Puck, known for graphically intense and witty political satire. After Ottmann's death in 1890, the firm was taken over by his son, William Ottmann, who shunted day to day management to Frank A. Bloom (1855 - 1901). Bloom ran the firm until his death in 1901, when it was acquired and became part of the United States Printing and Lithographing Company. Learn More...


Good. Map has been laid down on linen. There are several repaired and reinforced tears. Large water stain on left side visible but highly diminished.


Crosby, E., Nantucket in Print, pages 224 - 225. Garver, J., Surveying the Shore, pages 114-115. OCLC 8852947.