The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company, established in 1867, compiled and published maps of U.S. cities and towns for the fire insurance industry to assess the risk of insuring a particular property. The maps are large scale plans of a city or town drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch, offering detailed information on the use made of commercial and industrial buildings, their size, shape and construction material. Some residential areas are also mapped. The maps show location of water mains, fire alarms and fire hydrants. They are color-coded to identify the structure (adobe, frame, brick, stone, iron) of each building. Textual information on construction details (for example, steel beams or reinforced walls) is often given on the plans while shading indicates different building materials. Extensive information on building use is given, ranging from symbols for generic terms such as stable, garage, and warehouse to names of owners of factories and details on what was manufactured in them. In the case of large factories or commercial buildings, even individual rooms and the uses to which they were put are recorded on the maps. Other features shown include pipelines, railroads, wells, dumps, and heavy machinery. Click here to access a key provided by the Sanborn Map Company. (435 KB)
Sanborn fire insurance maps are the most frequently consulted maps in both public and academic libraries. Sanborn maps are valuable historical tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, environmentalists and anyone who wants to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods. They are large-scale plans containing data that can be used to estimate the potential risk for urban structures. This includes information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. Seven or eight different editions represent some areas.
Between 1955 and 1978, the Library of Congress withdrew duplicate sheets and atlases from their collection and offered them to selected libraries. Maps for Missouri towns and cities were given to the MU Libraries. Documenting the layout of 390 Missouri cities from 1883 to 1951, the University of Missouri-Columbia Ellis Library Special Collections Department has digitized 6,488 of the maps for Missouri cities from 1880 to 1922. Click here to view the University of Missouri Sanborn Insurance Maps Collection.
The maps for Callaway County represented in the University of Missouri collection are presented below. Simply click on the thumbnail image of each map to be presented with a larger view. Due to the size of the images, it will be necessary to click on the above link to view the highest resolution images from the MU site.