Loading Library Hours...

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

The Map Library holds a collection of 30,000 fire insurance maps produced between the 1880s and1930s and covering approximately 550 cities in Illinois . The maps duplicate part of the fire insurance map collection held by the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division . Sanborn maps were created to assist insurance underwriters in determining fire insurance rates for individual buildings by examining the buildings’ construction methods, heat and lighting sources, use, and those same attributes in nearby buildings. Their purpose was to determine how likely it was that a building might catch fire. Sanborn maps are especially useful in providing a record of urban development from the 1880s through the 1950s. Family historians also find them useful for confirming the existence of family homes and businesses. The Sanborn Map Company was founded in 1867 by a surveyor named D. A. Sanborn. The company is of particular importance because by 1915 the company had monopolized the production of insurance maps in the United States. From 1915 through the 1960s,nearly every insurance map in the United States was made by Sanborn.

Sanborn maps tend to be at a large scale (the earliest are at 1:600), and sets will include a graphic index and a simplified map of the community with numbered rectangles overprinted to represent how individual sheets provide coverage. Commercial and industrial areas are usually fully represented but residential areas are often incomplete. It is rare for an entire city to be mapped.

Most of the Map Library’s Sanborn fire insurance maps are loose, unbound sheets and can be retrieved by unit staff Monday through Friday between 9:00am and 4:30pm upon patron request. Distant users are encouraged to call or e-mail the Map Library to verify holdings. Map Library staff can assist in determining which sheets in the collection cover specific sites if users are able to provide site addresses, cross streets, or descriptions of the site, a specific building, nearby landmarks, or other location information.

Sanborn fire insurance maps are for in-library use only and will not be permitted to be taken from the Map Library for any reason.

The Map Library can also provide information about other libraries that have Sanborn map coverage of cities not included in the UIUC Library Sanborn collection.

Sanborn Map Holdings at UIUC

Please consult the tables linked below to determine cities and years available in the Map Library’s Sanborn collection.


Scanned UIUC Sanborns

Sanborns published prior to 1923 are in process for scanning. This collection is not yet complete.


Fire Insurance Map Web Resources

Digital Sanborn Maps through IDAL (Click on “PROQUEST DATABASES” to open application)
Scanned Sanborn maps for Illinois cities from ProQuest Information and Learning. Black and white. Zoomable, panable, printable, and downloadable. These are only accessible from UIUC campus computers or with a valid NetID and password. Please note that UIUC only subscribes to the Illinois maps in the database.

Union List of Sanborn & Other FireInsurance Maps
Online version of a two-volume index ( Union List of Sanborn & Other Fire Insurance Maps by Philip Hoehn) published by the Western Association of Map Libraries. Compiled by the University of California, Berkeley Library.

Color Sanborn Symbol Key
Scanned color image of Sanborn Symbol Key through the University of California, Berkeley.

Sanborns at EDR
Environmental Data Resources owns the rights to the Sanborn maps. Link on this page to PDF of abbreviations that appear on Sanborns

Background and History of Sanborn Maps
The preface and introduction extracted from “Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress:A checklist compiled by the Reference and Bibliography Section, Geography and Map Division.”The preface contains general information on LC’s collection and includes a list of other libraries with Sanborn holdings. The introduction gives a historical perspective on fire insurance maps and the Sanborn Company.

THE Sanborn Map Company
Yes! They are still in business!

Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Sanborn Online Checklist
“The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online Checklist provides a searchable database of the fire insurance maps published by the Sanborn Map Company housed in the collections of the Geography and Map Division.”

Fire Insurance Map Print Resources

The following indexes and descriptive materials are either on reserve at the Map Library’s circulation desk or at other UIUC libraries.

Indices of Sanborn Maps held at UIUC Library
Illinois. University at Urbana-Champaign. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps . 1975.
On reserve at the Map Library circulation desk.

FILM 368.110223 F514
Stave, Bruce M. Fire Insurance Maps from the Sanborn Map Company Archives, Late 19th Century to 1990,Illinois .
Thirty-six microform reels and a print guide. Located at the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library.

Indices of Sanborn Maps held at other libraries
Hoehn, R. Philip. Union List of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Held by Institutions in the United States andCanada . 2 vols. 1976.
Located in the Map Library’s Reference Collection.

Library of Congress. Geography and Map Division. Reference and Bibliography Section. Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress . 1981.
Located in the Map Library’s Reference and Circulating Collections and Main Stacks.

Descriptions of Sanborn Maps
Sanborn Map Company. Description and Utilization of the Sanborn Map .
Located in the Map Library’s Reference Collection.

526 OS9F
Oswald, Diane L. Fire Insurance Maps: Their History and Applications .
Located in the Map Library’s book collection.

Description of the Sanborn Map Company
Sanborn Map Company. Sixtieth Anniversary, 1866-1926, Sanborn Map Company .
Located in the Map Library’s book collection.