Mapping the Nation: A Critical History of the Sanborn Map Company

A Critical History of the Sanborn Map Company

For years geographers, historians, urban planners, and genealogists have used historic Sanborn Fire Insurance maps as the backdrop to larger scholar endeavors. Yet little information exists about the production, creation, and (crucially) the circulation of these maps. Jack Swab's research seeks to recover the "lost" history of the Sanborn Map Company, blending together corporate and cartographic histories with the GeoHumanities to create an innovative historical-geographic narrative of one of the largest producers of cartographic outputs in the 20th Century.

Questions he asks around this project relate to both the theoretical and factual aspects of Sanborn maps. Theoretically, examples include questions about the role of Sanborn surveyor in crafting the maps, how today's uses of Sanborn maps can warp interpretations of the past, and how geographic information was controlled in the pre-digital era. More factual questions revolve around use, creation, regulation, and access to Sanborn maps, all of which are critical to informing the theoretical questions above.

 Map Room, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. Boston, MA 1921. Image courtesy of  earlyofficemuseum.com , original photo located in the  Fireman's Fund Insurance Company Records, 1898-1940  at the San Francisco Public Library.

Map Room, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. Boston, MA 1921. Image courtesy of earlyofficemuseum.com, original photo located in the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company Records, 1898-1940 at the San Francisco Public Library.

Enchanting the Desert

Enchanting the Desert

Enchanting the Desert explicates the space produced by an early-twentieth-century photographic slideshow of the Grand Canyon made by journeyman photographer Henry Peabody. 

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