White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire: Edward Tuckerman and Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman Ravine 2Tuckerman Ravine has been described as a “tremendous gulf in the southerly side of Mt. Washington.” This so-called gulf is actually a glacial cirquecarved by the movement of the great New England ice sheet into the side of the Northeast’s highest mountain (Mount Washington).”  Today the area is a skiing mecca of sorts, with the steepest single ski slope in the east found at the Tuckerman Headwall. Tuckerman Ravine was named in honor of Edward Tuckerman who explored the White Mountains to learn about, and catalog, its high altitude lichen and flora.

Edward Tuckerman

Edward Tuckerman; American Antiquarian Society Archive, Worcester MA

Edward Tuckerman was born in Boston MA on 7 Dec 1817, the son of Edward & Sophia (May) Tuckerman, and died in Amherst MA 15 March 1886. He graduated from Union College in 1837 and from Harvard Law School in 1839. He continued studies in Cambridge in law and divinity school. In 1841 he studied in Europe and met Elias Fries. When he returned to the United States in 1842 he and Asa Gray made an excursion to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and submitted a paper on what he found to the American Journal of Science. In 1847 he received an A.B. degree from Harvard, and completed a divinity course there in 1852. In 1854 he was appointed a lecturer on history for Amherst College, who later gave him the degree of LL.D. He was appointed professor of botany in 1858, holding that chair until his death. Lichenology became his specialty.

Boardman Map of 1858 showing Tuckerman Ravine.

Section of Harvey Boardman map of 1858 showing Tuckerman Ravine.

There is a great deal written about Edward Tuckerman, and so to avoid repeating many others, I am including a list of additional reading below. I have not been able to learn specifically who decided to name this ravine, nor what it was called prior to Tuckerman, however the location is identified as Tuckerman Ravine as early as 1858 as shown on the Harvey Boardman Map of the White Mountains.

There is an often quoted story, with several variations, about Henry David Thoreau spraining his ankle in this location. It is a precautionary tale, for even in our modern age the area is not without its dangers.

Another view of Tuckerman Ravine, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Another view of Tuckerman Ravine, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

For Edward Tuckerman’s genealogy see the following:
1. Notes on the Tuckerman Family, by Bayard Tuckerman, 1914
2. Genealogical Sketch of the First Three Generations of Prebles in America: With an Account of Abraham Preble the Emigrant, Their Common Ancestor, and of His Grandson Brigadier General Jedediah Preble, and His Descendants, by George Henry Preble; D. Clapp and Son, 18683. Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation, by William Richard Cutter; Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1913–Tuckerman

Appletons’ cyclopædia of American biography; New York: D. Appleton and company, 1887-89; page 176
Scientific Papers of Asa Gray: Essays; biographical sketches, 1841-1886; by Asa Gray; Houghton, Mifflin, 1889
The White Mountains : a handbook for travellers : a guide to the peaks, passes, and ravines of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 1876, page 194

*Additional Reading*
Memoir of Edward Tuckerman
Hike Tuckerman Ravine (great info and photographs blogged)
Tuckerman Brewing Company (inspired by Tuckerman Ravine)
Views in the White Mountains, 1879
Stereoview, Tuckerman Ravine


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