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Library Research Guides

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

An introduction and guide to finding and using Sanborn fire insurance maps at UM and elsewhere.

Which Database?

ProQuest Collection Advantages

  • Download PDFs of Sanborn maps.
  • View thumbnails of Sanborn maps before opening them.
  • Fewer steps in getting to Sanborn maps.
  • The GeoEdition may not yet have Sanborn maps of the area you are looking for (see ProQuest Sanborn Maps Geo Edition box for further details).

GeoEdition Advantages

  • Find Sanborn maps by clicking on a Google map location.
  • Download Sanborn maps as a jpeg or GeoTiff.
  • Smoother zooming and panning over maps within the web browser.
  • Ability to search for maps by county.

Sanborn Maps in Online Databases

The University of Michigan Library subscribes to  the Proquest Collection of Sanborn Maps and Proquest Sanborn Maps GeoEdition.  Both databases allow users to access digital copies of Sanborn maps, as well as allowing users to magnify selected maps to view them in detail.  Both databases function differently, and the following descriptions provide a step-by step tutorial for how to use each online database.

ProQuest has created a guide to using their digital collection of Sanborn Maps.

ProQuest Sanborn Maps Geo Edition

ProQuest Sanborn Maps Geo Edition "provides digital access to thousands of large-scale maps of American towns and cities, searchable by address and GPS coordinates." Users can find Sanborn maps from the years 1867-1970 by clicking a location on a current Google map, which generates a list of georeferenced Sanborn maps that cover that location.

The GeoEdition is newer than the ProQuest Collection of Sanborn Maps Database, and does not currently have as many maps available for download or exploration as the older database.  An advantage of the ProQuest Sanborn Maps Geo Edition is that it contains georeferenced data, allowing users to find relevant Sanborn maps by clicking locations on a Google map. 

Browsing

1. From the Home page, click "Browse to a location."

2. Choose a state or a city from the left-hand bar.

The following states are available for browsing (as of May 2012):

  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia

The following cities not located in any of the above states are also available (as of May 2012):

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Harrison/East Newark/Kearny, NJ
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Newark, NJ
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC
  • Washington Suburban, DC
  • West Los Angeles, CA

3. By clicking on a state, the user may choose from a list of cities or counties within that state.

4. If the user chooses a county, a list of cities within that county is generated. 

5. Note that only cities with an asterisk (*) have been georeferenced.

6. After choosing a city, a map window with a Google-generated map will open, as well as a link: "see all [city name] atlases."  Clicking this link generates a list of all available Sanborn maps within the limits of the city being viewed.

7. Clicking any location in the map window generates a list showing all available Sanborn maps that overlay the point selected on the Google map.

8. The list will contain plate numbers, and next to each plate number is a magnifying glass and text that says "zoom map." 

9. Clicking "zoom map" generates a digitized Sanborn image that can be zoomed in to show significant detail.  The page also contains the image's metadata. 

10. The image can be cropped, as well as downloaded as a jpeg or GeoTiff.

Search

The "Search" link on the home page links to a page that allows users to search by address or latitude and longitude (in decimal degrees).  This is not recommended unless the user knows the exact address or latitude and longitude location of the relevant Sanborn map. 

View a List of Available Locations

Clicking this link on the homepage generates a list of locations of available Sanborn maps.  The user is prompted to select a state, county, and city, in that order.  A list is then generated showing all of the individual map sheets available for that city.  These map sheet numbers do not link to their respective maps, nor are there any thumbnails, so these lists are mostly useful as an index for future reference.

This online collection is accessible to University of Michigan faculty, staff and students only.