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Michigan State University

Using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online: Proquest Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

View very detailed building-level historical maps for Michigan plus 12 U.S. metropolitan areas which can be exported as .jpg images or GeoTIFF.

Sanborn Maps Example

Using the Collection

The Sanborn Maps are a terrific resource for viewing detailed information about city properties.  Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show all the buildings, their addresses, and in commercial areas, the type of business establishment in each building.  This purchased computer access to digital images of the Michigan Sanborn maps includes about 335 cities and villages from 1870-1960.  One important difference between the computer database and the original books is that the computer database is black-and-white only, while the original maps use color to indicate building materials.

Enter the site (using the link above) and choose a state, city and date.  If you are accessing from off-campus or using a wireless connection, you will be asked to provide your MSU NetID and password. East Lansing appears only as part of the Lansing volumes from 1913 onward.

A first image will appear along with a list of thumbnails along the right side of the screen. If the place is very small, there may only be a few pages, or even just one page!  Large cities, on the other hand, will consist of several volumes.  Look for the pull-down list to choose other volumes in the set.  Detroit is mapped over 26 volumes.

The map scale is so large that only a couple city blocks will fit on each page.  All but the very smallest towns will have an index map of the village or city, indicating on which page each neighborhood is mapped.  Most towns also have a street index, which indicates on which page each street is mapped.

Once you find a sheet of interest, you may use the buttons at the top of the screen to control the image, to download or print the image. 

Subject Guide

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Kathleen Weessies
Geosciences Librarian; Social Sciences Coordinator; Head, Map Library
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive E240
Michigan State University