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Details 1871 Robinson View of Swampscott, Massachusetts
1871 (dated) $1,200.00

1871 Robinson View of Swampscott, Massachusetts

Swampscott, Essex County Mass., 11 Miles from Boston. - Main View

1871 Robinson View of Swampscott, Massachusetts


Unusual early locally produced view of Swampscott, Massachusetts.


Swampscott, Essex County Mass., 11 Miles from Boston.
  1871 (dated)     18 x 20 in (45.72 x 50.8 cm)


This is a rare 1871 locally produced view of Swampscott, Essex County, Massachusetts. The view was issued by John L. Robinson, likely to promote his Swampscott real estate interests. The views are two-color lithograph versions of photographs taken by Frederick M. Smith of Boston. The piece consists of four views on a single sheet:
  • View from Inner Ledge of Phillips Point
  • View from Lincoln House towards Lynn
  • View from the Heights at the head of Burrill St.
  • View from Red Rock, Lynn
At the base of the map there are real estate statistics illustrating the growth of Swampscott since its incorporation in 1852. A secondary note emphasizes that Swampscott is only 11 miles from Boston. The railroad station, prominent in the Burrill Street view, is prominently illustrated, doubtless intended to illustrate Swampscott as a well-connected.
Unusual Local Production
This view, unlike most 18th century views, appears to be a highly localized production and lacks the sophistication of most commercial views of this era. For example, here Swampscott is illustrated low-angle elevation rather than a bird's-eye perspective, as was common. The photographer Frederick M. Smith is little known, but existing photographs bearing his imprint seem to suggest that he was a local landscape photographer based in Lynn, Massachusetts (8 Market Street). The publisher, John L. Robinson, is similarly little known but evidence suggests a local figure in the real estate business. Robinson issued only three views, all in 1871, two of Swampscott and one of Lynn. All three feature real estate statistics in the lower margins. The lithographer, J. H. Bufford, is more prolific and managed a large Boston printing house.
Swampscott was first settled in 1629 when Francis Ingalls built the first Massachusetts Bay Colony tannery on Humphrey’s Brook. It was not formally incorporated as a town until 1852, at which point it was beginning to see wealthy tourist arriving for Boston in the summer months. Abutting Salem, Marblehead, and Lynn, Swampscott, with its beautiful beaches, quickly became a haven for Boston's elite. It is considered by some to the America's first resort town. Enormous luxurious hotels, such as Ocean House, identified here at the left side of the top view, were constructed. Many who enjoyed Swampscott during the summer went on to build large stately homes, among them General Electric founder Elihu Thomson’s Georgian revival mansion, now the town administration building.

This view is today reasonably rare. Examples are known at the Library of Congress, the Boston Athenaeum.


John Henry Bufford (July 27, 1810 - October 8, 1870) was a Boston based lithographer and printer. Bufford was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He apprenticed as an artist and lithographer at Pendleton Lithography (1825 - 1836) of Boston. In 1835 he relocated to New York where he took independent commissions from George Endicott and Nathaniel Currier, among others. Returning to his hometown of Boston in 1839, he took a position of chief artist with the firm of Benjamin W. Thayer, heir to Pendleton Lithography. He probably married Thayer's sister, Anna Melora Tufts Thayer (1808-1878). Bufford has been highly criticized as an engraver, with one historian, David Tatham, stating he had 'a mediocre sort of craftsmanship at best' and 'no very special skills as an original artist.' We, however, find no justification for this harsh criticism. Instead Bufford gravitated toward business and management. By 1844 Thayer's shop was renamed J. H. Bufford and Company. The firm specialized in decorative sheet music, panoramic views, illustrations for books, retractions of paintings, and commercial printing. Bufford is credited with being one of the first employers and mentors of the important artist and engraver Winslow Homer. Bufford died in 1870, passing on the business to his sons Frank G. Bufford and John Henry Bufford Jr. These young men, operating under the imprint of 'J.H. Bufford's Sons, Manufacturing Publishers of Novelties in Fine Arts', expanded the firm with offices in New York and Chicago. A possibly related lithographic printing firm named Bufford Chandler was incorporated in Boston in 1893. It later relocated to Concord, New Hampshire but closed in 1925 when its state business charter was repealed. More by this mapmaker...


Very good.


Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), #1651.