The Sanborn Maps of
Exploring the State's
Jorge A. Gonzalez
and Will Canova
University of Florida
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The Sanborn Map Company produced a series
of maps dating from the 1860's to present day
that depict the commercial, industrial, and
residential sections of around 12,000 cities
and towns in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
D.A. Sanborn, a surveyor from
Massachusetts who worked for an
insurance company, originally made
an atlas of the city of Boston.
He followed this with making maps for
several cities in Tennessee in the
Sanborn later established a company that
would specialize in compiling and publishing
maps for the fire insurance industry.
After several mergers and acquisitions, the
company he helped establish now goes by the
name Sanborn Map Company.
The maps were mainly designed to help
fire insurance agents determine the degree
of damage to a property and show
accurate information to help them
determine risks and establish premiums.
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Using a key, they showed the size (including
color-coding), shape and construction of
buildings (brick, adobe, frame, etc), and other
dwellings (including hotels
and churches), and other
structures such as: bridges,
docks and barns.
Along with fire stations, you could also find water
facilities, sprinklers, hydrants, cisterns; and alarm
boxes as well as firewalls, windows, doors,
elevators and chimneys and roof types.
The maps included street names, property
boundaries and lot lines, and house and block
Other information such as the latest
census figures, prevailing winds; railroad
lines and Indian reservations and
topography were included.
Presently, Sanborn maps are used by: municipal
governments, and engineering and architectural
companies, as well as individuals doing:
historical (environmental & architectural)
research, ethnic studies, urban archeology,and
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The University of Florida Map and
Imagery Library holds the largest
collection of Sanborn maps of Florida
cities, outside the Library of Congress.
Maps in the collection are filed in map cases by
LC class number (which, by design, puts cities
in alphabetical order by place name and each
city in chronological order).
--1919-1930 include the town of Rockledge
--Community within the city of Miami
no. of sheets
1924-1947 v. (30 sheets)
The Map and Imagery Library's collection
contains over 130 Florida cities and towns. Most
sheets arrived at the University unattached, but
some were stapled together and others were
previously bound together.
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W 0, A AN
A Brief History of Florida in the 1900's
The State of Florida experienced incredible
population growth around the turn of the last
century with a combination of Henry M. Flagler
bringing the railroad further south; a tourist
Sboom; and the invention of air conditioning.
Examining Sanborn maps is an interesting way to
see where, when and how cities and towns grew
over this time.
Accuracy and uniformity of Sanborn
maps were ensured with the
publication of a surveyor's manual.
This included precise instructions,
sample maps and a comprehensive
symbol key. Most maps were drawn
at the scale of 50 feet to an inch (the
exception for some older maps being
100 feet to an inch).
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Index maps varied in scale also. Sheets were 21
by 25 inches. Surveyors would redraw the areas
every 5 to 7 years and publish a new edition.
Updates of these maps were accomplished by
personal inspections of the buildings in the
Sanborn gave more than 750,000 maps to the
Library of Congress for copyright purposes, the
largest single collection of any detailed map
publisher in the United States. Subsequently, the
Library of Congress donated one copy (complete
with original copyright stamps) of their Florida
holdings to our University.
While the maps in our collection are clean and
unmarked, it is not unusual to find map copies that
have been updated with hand-revisions over the
years that now obscure their original lines and
markings. Unfortunately, many of the maps have
also suffered browning from folding and others
have their edges worn out, mostly from unsafe
handling and acidic paper.
Conservation treatments are being evaluated in
order to preserve these old yet very valuable
sheets. A few sheets were applied with backings
and plasticized in an attempt to reduce wear and
tear and exposure to the elements.
Today, the maps are being digitized and preserved
forever on the web:
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also held at the Map Library. The microfiche
negative copies are arranged by city and date
each pertaining to one Map sheet. The fiche
copies are black and white but the quality of
resolution of these provides better detail than the
hT h1dT Sanborn Map Company.
The maps had Title:
Crestview, Okaloosa County, Florida, 1939 / Sanborn Map
been cataloged Company.
l lly o c d New York : Sanborn Map Company, 1939, c1940.
ocally on cards Scale, projection, coordinates:
in the 1970's, but Description:
1 map : col. ; on 5 sheets 65 x 55 cm.
this was not Fire insurance map which shows building construction by hand
coloring, locations of windows and doors...
reflected in the Subjects, general:
Online catalog Subjects, reversed geographic:
until 1998. Florida--Sanborn maps.
Other authorss, etc.:
Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn fire insurance maps, Florida.
At that time a project was undertaken based on
careful examination of each map, and combined a
very high level of detail in the description and
access of the maps with efficient techniques
afforded by modern software.
Resources -- weblinks
Sanborn Maps at Florida (part of PALMM Collections)
Geospatial and Statistical Data Center
University of Virginia Library
Environmental Data Resources, Inc. Sanborn Maps
UC Berkeley Sanborn and other fire insurance maps
Sanborn total geographic information
Resources -- weblinks continued
University of Utah (Marriott Library) Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Fire Insurance Maps Library of Congress
maps library of congress.htm
UC-Davis Sanborn Map Collection
University of Georgia-Sanborn Maps for Georgia
Sanborn at UMI
Resources -- References
Hoehn, R. Philip, 1941-
Union list of Sanborn fire insurance maps held by institutions in
the United States and Canada / by R. Philip Hoehn ; foreword by
Walter W. Ristow. -- Santa
Cruz, CA : Western Association of Map Libraries, c1976-1977.
Library of Congress. Geography and Map Division. Reference and
Fire insurance maps in the Library of Congress : plans of North
American cities and towns produced by the Sanborn Map Company :
a checklist / compiled by the Reference and Bibliography Section,
Geography and Map Division ; introd. By Walter W. Ristow. --
Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1981.
Indiana Environmental Compliance Update, February, 2000; Volume
10, Issue 8