Sanborn maps are a favorite of any map librarian. What's not to like about them? They give us a view into the history of our country in a way that few other maps do. They show the growth and decline of towns and cities. They track the changing use of buildings over time. At times they tell us who lived and worked in specific areas. We peek into the past to understand what kept people entertained, be it an amusement park, a skating rink, a movie theater, or a bar. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company began producing these maps in the late 19th century for towns and cities throughout the United States in order to provide information to insurers about the composition and use of buildings to allow for the correct underwriting of policies. The maps include: building footprints; building material shown by color, height and number of stories; uses such as dwellings, hotels, churches, and chicken coops; street widths, water pipes, hydrants, and cisterns. This provides historians, genealogists, urban planners, and ethnologist with a wealth of information about the nation's past.
December 4, 2018