Re: Hindsight 20/20 5.0

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford

Bill and friends,

Some cautions with the Sanborn maps are in order.

Some of the colorful paper originals had updates pasted in over the years, so a book issued with a particular date might actually contain later information. Of course, this is hard to see on a digitized version, and IIRC, they paste-ins were not dated.

Sanborn maps usually show railway tracks in detail. Not so with streetcar lines or interurbans, even when the electrified railway was a major freight carrier such as the Sacramento Northern. This exclusion began about the time of WWI. There are some early maps that show Oakland, Antioch & Eastern track (an SN predecessor) around 1912, but the same tracks are conspicuously absent from later maps. Electric railway right-of-way was usually shown as a blank space, sometimes bounded by drawn property lines, and indicated as "Electric Railway Right-of-Way" or some such wording. Many railroad buildings that fall into those zones are not shown either.

Much (but not all) the Sanborn maps were microfilmed by the Center for Research Libraries many years ago. I don't know if the Library of Congress is able to issue the maps in a more complete version (contrary to popular belief, the Library of Congress does NOT own a copy of every item in the world, or even in the U.S.). Nor do I know if they are re-using the CRL collection. It would be a shame if they did, as the CRL maps are all black-and-white, while the Sanborn originals are color coded for the materials used in each building. If you are using online versions of these maps through state or local libraries and they are monochrome, they are probably digitizations of the CRL collection.

There were other producers of similar fire insurance maps, but they were minor players. The Sanborn collection was the largest and most thorough, as well as in production for the longest time.

I once got into big  trouble over the Sanborn maps with the interlibrary loan people at the UVA Library where I worked. I made an ILL request for certain reels naming the Virginia towns in which I was interested. I expected four or five reels. CRL sent the entire Virginia collection, some 60 reels. As I viewed those reels, I understood why they did this. The information I wanted on the rural industrial areas I was researching was included with different towns during subsequent map re-issues. In addition, some towns extended across two or more reels. There was no index available. CRL had no way to tailor my request -- they just shipped the whole big shmegegge. UVA's ILL people were not happy to pay the postage each way on such a large and heavy carton. The lending clerk threw some very sharp words at me, and made a formal complaint to the ILL Director. The director nearly suspended my borrowing privileges, but eventually saw my side.

Yours Aye,

Garth Groff  🦆

On Sat, Dec 26, 2020 at 8:01 PM William Hirt <whirt@...> wrote:

The Jacksonville Sanborn maps updated through 1949 are available on the Library of Congress web site:

Here is the link to Volume 1a:


Here is the link to Volume 4:


The other updated Volumes thorough 1949 are not available on online. Earlier years (1884 to 1913) are also available.

The Library of Congress is gradually scanning their entire collection to place online. They say in the collection information they do not post anything beyond a copyright date of 1922, but there are exceptions I have found like the above.

Bill Hirt

On 12/26/2020 3:39 PM, rwilson1056 via wrote:
Found the National Stocktard for Jacksonville FL in one of the Sanborns for the city, see attached

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