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General Information
Locating Fire Insurance Maps at UCB
Microform Collections
Fire Insurance Maps in Other Locations
Digital Sanborn Maps
Purchasing Information
Sources of Additional Information

General Information

Fire insurance maps are detailed city plans, usually at scales of 50 or 100 feet to an inch. They show individual building "footprints," complete with construction details, such as building material (brick, adobe, frame, etc.), height (of larger buildings), number of stories, location of doors, windows, chimneys and elevators, use of structure (dwelling, hotel, church, etc.), street address, and occasionally the ethnicity of the occupants. Other features shown include lot lines, street widths, water pipes, hydrants and cisterns, and fire-fighting facilities.
View Sample Map
Legend to Sanborn maps (color)
Legend to Sanborn maps (black & white)

The maps were originally produced for insurance underwriters, who used them to determine risks and establish premiums. Today these maps are used by scholars and researchers in such fields as history, urban geography, architectural history and preservation, ethnic studies, and urban archaeology.

One of the earliest fire insurance maps is Richard Horwood's 1792-1799 map of London. Plans for American cities became widely available in the mid-nineteenth century. The earliest extant one for a city in the western United States is S.J. Gower's 1851 "Map of the Burnt District of San Francisco Showing the Extent of the Fire." Relatively few insurance maps made before 1884, when copyright deposit in the Library of Congress was required, survive. Sanborn maps are produced today, primarily for major cities and by contract for smaller ones.

NOTE: Most updated versions of Sanborn (and other fire insurance) maps are original editions with pasted-on correction slips. In such cases, the date of the information is usually a penciled date contained in a "corrections box" at the beginning of the set or volume, rather than the date appearing on the title sheet.

Locating Fire Insurance Maps at UC Berkeley

Fire insurance maps are located in three libraries on the Berkeley campus:

  • The Bancroft Library (originals)
  • Earth Sciences & Map Library (photocopies and microforms; current San Francisco)
  • University Archives (originals of U.C. Berkeley and surroundings)

In addition, Digital Sanborn Maps for California cities, 1867-1970, are available online and can be accessed from any UC Berkeley campus computer connected to the internet.

Records for the maps may be found in the OskiCat and MELVYL catalogs. To locate records, search by "subject keyword" (the order is not important).


NOTE: Most fire insurance maps for California are parts of large sets and will not be retrieved when a city name is added to a search. These large sets are in our Microform Collections, which have their own indexes.

A list of Fire Insurance Maps of Berkeley and Albany is available. In addition, some "predefined searches" below will retrieve records from OskiCat, the Library's online catalog. Make sure you view the "Full Display" to see all "Holdings." The dates in the "Brief Display" do not reflect the actual dates of the holdings.

Microform Collections

Most of the Earth Sciences & Map Library's fire insurance maps are in collections of microfilm or microfiche. Individual maps contained in these sets are seldom listed separately in the catalogs. Below are descriptions of some of the library's largest and most highly-used sets.

Microfilm 31073 | Microfilm 77648 | Microfiche 24610 | Other Collections -- California and western U.S.

Microfilm 31073  View catalog records
The library's largest set of fire insurance maps on microform (76 reels) contains all Sanborn maps of California in the Library of Congress' collection, which includes 569 cities and towns, dating from about 1884 through 1957.

For contents of this set, see the guide in the Earth Sciences & Map Library's microform area (a duplicate printed guide is also available at The Bancroft Library) or the online, searchable index. Some small towns do not show up in this list because they are included with nearby large cities. Therefore, check the index in the back of the following work to see if the town is listed:

    Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress: Plans of North American Cities and Towns Produced by the Sanborn Map Company: a Checklist. 1981.
    (HG9771 U54 1981  Earth Sciences & Map Library, Environmental Design)
    (Z6026 I7U54 1981  Bancroft Library)
    View catalog record

Microfilm 77648  View catalog record
The second largest set of California Sanborn maps on microfilm consists of 225 cities and towns mapped between 1911-1991. These maps are from the Sanborn Map Company Archives, and the majority are post-1950. A printed guide to the contents of this set is available in the microform area of the library; an online index is also available.

Microfiche 24610  View catalog record
Another large microform collection, this set contains over 2,000 maps, mainly of factory sites in the eastern U.S. and Canada, from the Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance Company Industrial Site Collection, 1894-1954. For contents, see the printed index, shelved in the library's microform area:

    Guide to the Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance Company Industrial Site Maps, 1894-1954
    (Microfiche 24610 guide  Earth Sciences & Map Library)

Other Collections
The Earth Sciences & Map Library holds a number of additional microform collections of Sanborn (and other) fire insurance maps. Collections for cities in California and the western United States are listed below. Search these titles in the "Full Display" in OskiCat to see the cities and dates included.

Fire Insurance Maps

Area Description Dates Call Number
Alameda   1897 MICROFILM 384
California Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: California, from the collection of the Library of Congress 1884-1957 MICROFILM 31073
Fire Insurance Maps from the Sanborn Map Company Archives 1911-1991 MICROFILM 77648
California Warehouse Book : a compilation of the Dakin Publishing Co.'s maps for hundreds of small communities in CA 1885
1897? rev.
California, northern Butte, Glenn, Sutter and Yuba counties: a compilation of 571 maps of 19 towns
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1884-1949 MICROFILM 77803
North Coast Towns: a compilation of 362 maps of 23 towns in Humboldt and Mendocino counties
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1886-1946 MICROFILM 77800
Towns of 9 northern counties: a compilation of 547 maps
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1885-1950 MICROFILM 77802
California, southern Towns in 4 southern counties: a compilation of 629 maps of 33 towns in Imperial, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1885-1911 MICROFILM 77805
Contra Costa County Compilation of 540 maps of 25 Contra Costa County towns
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1907-1951 MICROFICHE 2087
Los Angeles Vol. 1 1956 rev.
1960 rev.
Vol. 1A 1956 rev. MICROFILM 400
Vol. 2 1957 rev. MICROFILM 400
Vol. 3 1954 rev.
1957 rev.
Vol. 5 1954 MICROFILM 400
Vol. 5A 1957 rev. MICROFILM 400
Vol. 6 1955 MICROFILM 400
Vol. 7 1954 MICROFILM 400
Vol. 8 1954 MICROFILM 400
Vol. 11 1955 rev. MICROFILM 400
Vol. 12 1920 MICROFILM 399
Vol. 16 1923 MICROFILM 399
Vol. 19 1921 MICROFILM 399
Vol. 25 1927 MICROFILM 399
Vol. 28 1928, 1929 MICROFILM 399
Los Angeles County Los Angeles Maps, the Suburbs, 1885-1908 : a compilation of over 700 maps of more than 31 communities within Los Angeles County
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1885-1908 MICROFILM 77794
Mother Lode Compilation of maps of 30 communities along California Highway 49
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1885-1906 MICROFICHE 2088
Oakland Vol. 1 1902 MICROFILM 396
Vol. 2 1903 MICROFILM 396
Vol. 3 1903 MICROFILM 396
Sacramento Vol. 1-3 1954 rev.
1964 rev.
San Francisco Vol. 1 1887
1891 rev.
Vol. 2 1886
1891 rev.
Vol. 3 1889
1892 rev.
Vol. 4 1893 MICROFILM 382
Compilation of over 700 Sanborn maps of San Francisco ; Vol. 1-4 (1899) and vol. 5-6 (1900)
(These are the same maps as those included on Microfilm 31073.)
1899-1900 MICROFILM 433
Santa Cruz Vol. 1-2 1965 rev. MICROFILM 385

Fire Insurance Maps

Area Description Dates Call Number
Alaska   1904-1957 MICROFILM 439
Arizona   1866-1907 MICROFILM 442
  1908-1943 MICROFILM 447
California See list of California Fire Insurance Microforms    
Colorado Compilation of maps of western Colorado towns 1883-1904 MICROFILM 432
Idaho   1884-1907 MICROFILM 441
Nevada   1906-1943 MICROFILM 402
  1907-1950 MICROFILM 443
New Mexico   1883-1908 MICROFILM 445
Oregon Compilation of maps of towns in 8 eastern counties 1884-1949 MICROFILM 446
Utah   1884-1904 MICROFILM 403
Compilation of maps of urban Salt Lake County 1884-1916 MICROFILM 454
Washington Compilation of maps of urban King County 1884-1908 MICROFILM 453
Wyoming   1883-1903 MICROFILM 404

Fire Insurance Maps in Other Locations

Current Sanborn maps can most likely be found in city government offices: planning, zoning, public works, engineering, or redevelopment. Maps (generally older ones) held by other libraries can be found listed in bibliographies such as:

Catalogue of Sanborn Atlases at California State University, Northridge. 1973.
  • (E38.A12C3  Environmental Design Library, Earth Sciences & Map Library)
  • (pZ6028.R42  Bancroft)
  • Online version
  • Union List of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Held by Institutions in the United States and Canada. 1976-1977.
  • (HG9771.A12H6 Environmental Design Reference, Earth Sciences & Map Library)
  • Online version
  • Fire Insurance Plans in the National Map Collection [Canada]. 1977.
  • (HG9771.N38 1977 Earth Sciences & Map Library)
  • The Center for Research Libraries in Chicago holds microfilm of all Sanborn fire insurance maps in the Library of Congress (up through 1970). Eligible U.C. Berkeley users may borrow them through the Interlibrary Borrowing Service. Information needed (from: Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress ...) is the city, date(s) and volume numbers. It generally takes about three weeks for the microfilm to arrive at Berkeley. Non-UCB patrons should contact their "home" academic, public, or company library about borrowing from the Center.

    Digital Sanborn Maps

    Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970--California citiesUCB only  Digital maps created from ProQuest Information and Learning's microfilm collection of originals held by the Library of Congress.

    Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Maps of Florida  A collection of more than 3,000 map sheets digitized from the printed maps held in the collections of the Smathers Libraries' Map & Imagery Library, at the University of Florida.

    Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Georgia Towns and Cities, 1884-1922  A digital collection of 4,445 Sanborn fire insurance maps from the University of Georgia Libraries.

    Digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Utah, from the collection of the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library.

    Purchasing Information

    For Historic and Current Sanborn Maps:

    Environmental Data Resources, Inc. (EDR)
    440 Wheelers Farms Road
    Milford, CT 06461

    EDR Account Executive for the San Francisco Bay Area
    Mike Vlachos

    For Currently Updated Sanborn Maps Only:

    Sanborn Map Company
    Order Online

    Sources of Additional Information

    History of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

    Description and Utilization of the Sanborn Map. Sanborn Map Company, 1949, 1960.
  • pGA325 S3 1949 Bancroft Library
  • GA325.S3 1960 Earth Sciences & Map Library
  • Description and Utilization of the New Reduced Size Sanborn Map. Sanborn Map Company, [195-?]
  • ffG325 S3 1950z Bancroft Library
  • "U.S. Fire Insurance Maps, 1852-1968" / Ristow, W. W.
  • Surveying and Mapping 30(1970):19-41 (TA501.S78  NRLF)
  • Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (July 1968):194-217 (Z733.U57.Q5  MAIN)
  • Reprint (GA405.5 R5 1970  EART)

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    Last updated 3/10/11