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Minneapolis Sanborn Atlases (1912 and 1923-1930)

By Laura Kane McElfresh

Featured Item or Collection: Fire insurance maps of Minneapolis ("Sanborn atlases"), 1912 and 1923-1930 (hard copies)

What is the item?

Two sets of Minneapolis "Sanborn atlases" (Fire insurance maps of Minneapolis), published in 1912. These large maps (the books are 70 cm high, or 27 1/2 inches) are drawn on a 1:600 scale (50 feet = 1 inch) and show a building-level, block-by-block depiction of the city.

Caption: Sanborn maps "show the size, shape, and construction of dwellings, commercial buildings, and factories as well as fire walls, locations of windows and doors, sprinkler systems, and types of roofs. The maps also indicate widths and names of streets, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers". -- Introduction to the Sanborn Map Collection, Library of Congress

Previously owned by the City of Minneapolis, these Sanborn Atlases were among a collection of Twin Cities-area maps and atlases stored in the clock tower of the Municipal Building -- a very non-climate-controlled environment! When the City cleared out that room, the cache of maps and atlases could have been lost; but the University of Minnesota Libraries entered an agreement with the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Historical Society to add the materials to the Borchert Map Library collection.

Caption: Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse, viewed from the northeast. Photo by Wikimedia user McGhiever is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

The atlases have been cataloged at the Map Library and have now made their way to the Digitization unit for scanning. When they are done, digital images of the atlases will be published in UMedia at the University of Minnesota and then added to the Geoportal. Currently, the Geoportal only has Minneapolis fire insurance maps available via subscription, so these freely-available scans will be a welcome addition. 

Caption: The Volume Boundary Map indexes the area of coverage for each atlas volume.

Caption: This "Key Map" includes the legend and index map for Volume 2.

Caption: Pages 121 and 122 (Vol. 2) show the area bounded by N. 2nd Street, N. 3rd Street,  3rd Avenue N., and Hennepin Avenue.

Caption: Detail from Page 122 shows the fire station at the corner of 3rd Avenue N. and N. 2nd Street. 

What BTAA Library submitted the item?

University of Minnesota

Interesting tidbits

  • One complete 8-volume set from 1912, with index, is in its original condition. (See UMN Libraries catalog record)

  • The other set has 11 volumes (there are extra copies of some volumes), originally published in 1912, that have been updated via pasteover slips -- new streets, buildings, and names are glued over the old ones -- and laying-in of additional sheets.

  • Dates of latest revision range from 1923 to 1930. (See UMN Libraries catalog record)

  • The atlases are old enough to be in the public domain, which means we can provide free online access of the scanned images to anyone. 

Caption: These volumes from the 1912 set await scanning inside the University of Minnesota's Andersen Library.

Caption: Volume 2 sits under the bright lights on the platform where it will be photographed.

Where can I find out more?

Caption: Title page of Volume Two.

Laura Kane McElfresh is the Cartographic Metadata Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries.