"The view presented... is one of the finest on Lake George" proclaims an 1853 issue of Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion found in the permanent Serials Collection of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
The above illustration was published on Saturday, December 3, 1853, along with the following write-up:
"Lake George. The view presented on page 368 is one of the finest on Lake George, and gives a fair illustration of that beautiful sheet of water with its islands and mountain-girt shore. It is given looking down Lake George from the top of Fort George. On the right of the picture we have the French Mountains, a continuous range, stretching away towards Lake Champlain. Behind them rises the top of the famous Black Mountain. In the centre stands Tongue and the adjoining mountains, and to the left the retiring portion of Prospect Hill, near the village of Caldwell. In front lie Diamond, Tea, Dome, and Long Island, together with Dunham and Northwest Bays. The water here is clear, deep, and translucent, and the tiny crafts that float upon its surface are reflected as in a mirror. The mountains cast their broad shadow as seen in our engraving, athwart the lake, and cloud and blue sky paint its surface with variegated colors. Sabbath Day Point is a favorite resort for travellers and artists, and it is from spot that our picture was taken, in the after part of the day, when the sun had already nearly approached the horizon. A summer’s afternoon has draped the lake as we see it."
What a nice promotional piece for Lake George! However, something is not right. At closer inspection, the description and the illustration do not match. The location is unclear. Where is this view on Lake George? Perhaps it is only imagined, with the illustrator taking artistic license. Consultation with my colleague Kevin Rogan, and research into other special collections at hand in the Folklife Center can help make sense of the apparent discrepancy, and help pin point the location, if it exists.
Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion was a 19th century illustrated periodical published in Boston, Massachusetts, 1851 to 1859. Founded by Frederick Gleason, the publication's name changed to Ballou's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion in 1855, when Maturin Murray Ballou bought out Gleason. Many 19th century writers and illustrators contributed to the publication over its nine year run.
Our 1853 illustration is labeled "Black and Tongue Mountains, From Sabbath Day Point." However, the written description goes on to say we are "looking down Lake George from the top of Fort George," with the French Mountains on the right stretching "towards Lake Champlain" and Prospect Hill near Lake George village on the left. If this is true, then the viewer is at the southern end of Lake George, looking north. However, Sabbath Day Point is some 20 miles north, on the west side of the lake, above Bolton Landing.
A search through the Abby & Will Csaplar Lake George Collection here at the Folklife Center might lend a hand. It has thousands of images of Lake George, allowing us to compare the 1853 illustration with later, photographic postcard views labeled "Sabbath Day Point" to see if we find a match. Here are a few from dozens of similar images in the collection:
A look at an older USGS topographical map from our sizable regional map collection can help confirm these results. Notice Sabbath Day Point at the top right of the map. The scene of the 1853 illustration and the 4 postcards has the viewer looking south, that is from the upper right of the map to the bottom left.
The map and postcards appear to verify the location and direction of the view of the 1853 illustration. We are not at Fort George on the south shore of the lake looking north, as the writer says. Rather, we are, indeed, at Sabbath Day Point, looking south towards the Narrows and its many islands. The rocky cliff face to the right is Deer Leap Mountain, and beyond to the Tongue Mountain range, with Elephant and Black Mountain to the left.
The title of the illustration holds up. It can be said that it's "Black and Tongue Mountains, From Sabbath Day Point." But isn't it interesting that the writer of the companion article for the illustration in Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion got it so wrong. Good reason to not take everything in print at face value; surely this is a plug for continued critical thinking in our historical research and other matters.
Black and Tongue Mountains, From Sabbath Day Point, Lake George. Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, Saturday, December 3, 1853 (Vol. V No. 23), Boston, p. 365 & 368.
Abby & Will Csaplar Lake George Collection, featuring 20 years of collecting over 10,000 images and artifacts of Lake George, donated to the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library, Glens Falls, NY.
Lake George, South from Sabbath Day Point (Unrivaled for Beauty in the World). Published by Vandenburg & Caldwell, Mechanicville, NY.
Sabbath Day Point, Lake George, NY. No. 1215. Arthur Livingston, Publisher, New York.
Deers Leap Mountain on Lake George, NY. Pub. by T. J. Kennedy Co., Glens Falls, NY.
Lake George, NY. In the Adirondacks. View south from Sabbath Day Point showing the beautiful Narrows and the many State owned Islands, also the Tongue Mountain Range. 67657A. Ektachrome by Richard K. Dean. Pub. by Dean Color Service, Glens Falls, NY.
New York Bolton Quadrangle. USGS Topographical Map, Department of the Interior. Edition of Feb. 1900, reprinted 1934.
Todd DeGarmo is the founding director of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY, and can be reached at email@example.com. He's worked as a public sector folklorist and educator in various venues for over 42 years, and is the editor of Voices: Journal of New York Folklore. He lives in the upper Hudson Valley of Upstate New York, a stone's throw from the Battenkill near the Vermont border.