Missouri State Archives
Missouri Fire Insurance Maps
Fire insurance maps provide detailed information about buildings and streets in cities and towns, allowing fire insurance companies to assess the risk of insuring a particular property. One of the earliest and most prolific publishers of fire insurance maps in the United States was the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company, established in 1867. The St. Louis-based Whipple insurance company also produced fire insurance maps for Missouri in the late nineteenth century.
Most fire insurance maps show cities and towns at a scale of 50 feet to an inch, mapping out the sizes and outlines of rivers, streets, bridges, railroad tracks, and buildings, including both businesses and homes. For each building, the maps show construction materials used; locations of windows and doors; number of stories; and often type of building, such as school, church, or business. The maps also show locations of water pipes, hydrants, and water mains.
Fire insurance maps originated in volumes, one volume for each city or town. At the beginning of each volume is a map index and key. Some volumes also include indexes of streets and businesses.
Updates to the maps were often applied by pasting new information directly onto old maps; thus, some volumes include a range of dates, indicating successive corrections. Usually the most recent correction is all that is visible.
Missouri Digital Heritage currently provides access to three fire insurance map collections: the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Missouri, The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Kansas City, and Unreal City: Historic St. Louis Maps.
Rights and Reproductions
Please see each individual collection for copyright, ownership, and citation information.
The Kansas City Public Library provides a tutorial on how to use fire insurance maps.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Kansas City
Contributed by: Kansas City Public Library
The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Kansas City collection includes 19 bound volumes documenting the Kansas City area from 1895 to 1957.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Missouri
Contributed by: University of Missouri-Columbia Special Collections
The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Missouri collection includes maps owned by the University of Missouri-Columbia Ellis Library. These maps document cities and towns throughout Missouri from 1880 to 1922.
Unreal City: Historic St. Louis Maps
Contributed by: Washington University; Missouri History Museum
The Unreal City: Historic St. Louis Maps collection includes Whipple fire insurance maps for St. Louis from 1870 to 1898, and a Sanborn map from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.