Rich with valuable and detailed information, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps were originally created more than a century ago as a product to help insurance companies assess the potential risks involved in underwriting policies, and have developed into a tool with myriad uses by researchers in multiple fields. These maps provide extensive details about the roads and buildings in cities and towns throughout the United States. Genealogists, architects, urban planners, and historians have long prized the impressive detail, clear printing, multiple editions (showing changes over time), and distinctive style that mark these maps. Whether tracing turn-of-the-century city expansion, looking for the home of an ancestor, or researching boundaries and zoning ordinances, the Sanborn maps are a key source of reliable data.
Recently Penn State’s University Libraries completed the cataloging and digitization of the entire collection of Sanborn maps that span the late 19th and early 20th centuries — 31,036 sheets, representing 585 large and small com-munities across the Commonwealth. Titles published before 1923 and available online to the public are presented in an alphabetical index of Pennsylvania communities at www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/sanborn.html. As copyright restrictions are lifted for post-1922 titles, the scanned images of those communities also will be mounted on the Maps Library’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps website for use.
A complete research guide for the Sanborn and other fire insurance maps is available at www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/researchguides/sanbornmaps.html. For more information, contact the Maps Library at 814-863-0094.