Monday, October 13, 2008

1940s era map designed to promote the White Mountain National Forest

This is a map printed in the 1940s I've had for years. The icons always catch my eye. If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it with your mouse you can see a little logging truck coming out of Waterville Valley, a black bear walking down the Franconia Brook Trail, and men on a log drive on the Androsgoggin River near Berlin. All of the old summit fire towers are visible along with all the AMC huts with the exception of Mizpah which was constructed in 1964-65. The map was an advertisement for the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF). It was part of a campaign that included eye catching posters for restaurants and inns with photographs of skiers in Tuckerman's Ravine, skiers on the Wildcat ski trail, and a long string of campers from a girls camp hiking up the Osgood Trail to Mt. Madison. The promotion worked and eventually people came. Tourism expanded quickly south of the WMNF during the 1950s. Skiing became a big business quickly in the region. Ski areas blossomed overnight. Living in North Conway during that time we could feel this surge of growth as new businesses sprang up to 'handle' the tourists. Hiking didn't catch on as fast probably because it was more work and less glamorous than skiing. Hiking was kind of a well kept secret. The map's references to fire towers, logging and timber reflect the principal activities in the WMNF until the 1960s. The AMC had completed its now famous hut system by 1932. The Forest Service (USFS) and the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) and the AMC together kept up hundred of miles of trails and dozens of shelters in the national forest starting as far back as the 1880s. So an infrastructure existed for hikers to utilize but there were not a lot of folks coming to the mountains just then. Not yet.

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