Digitizing Kansas Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1883-1922

The Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas, houses and provides access to an extensive collection of Sanborn maps for 241 Kansas towns and cities covering a period from 1883 through the 1930s. With funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the maps from 1883 – 1922 are now digitally available to researchers everywhere through this website.

History of the Maps

The Sanborn Map Company, of Pelham, New York, began surveying the business districts of cities and towns across the United States in the late 1860s. Their intent was to provide insurance underwriters with detailed information about the locations of businesses, the structures they were located in, and any information needed to assess their liability for insurance purposes.

Surveyors noted the size, shape, and construction of homes, commercial buildings and factories, the location of windows and doors, the existence of sprinkler systems and fire walls, the types of roofs, the widths and names of streets, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.

How To Use the Maps

Each map set begins with an index sheet showing which areas are depicted by a specific sheet in the set. The colored areas on the index sheet are paired with a number, that represents the number of the sheet in the set where that area is described.

Sanborn Map

Lawrence, Kansas 1912 Key Map and Index

The maps are color coded and contain a key to the coding, identifying materials used in construction of the buildings and homes.

Funded by NHPRC

Kenneth Spencer Research Library


Letha Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator
Spencer Research Library

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