Fun-Size Fire Insurance Maps of Davenport

In anticipation of this coming Tuesday’s program, “Genealogical Perspectives on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps” (6:30pm on 5/22 at our 321 Main Street location) we are featuring a recent addition to our collection of these sources that consistently prove valuable to our understanding of the development of Davenport’s built environment over time. 

In the 1950s the Sanborn Map Company began to republish earlier editions of its large-scale fire insurance maps (sheets measuring 22″ x 28″) for many U.S cities and towns, touting the new “Reduced Size Sanborn Map” (at 11″ x 13″) as able “to effect an appreciable saving in floor space and to permit more economical utilization…” The map, “[s]tripped of bulkiness and excessive weight” could now be “easily carried from a map cabinet to a conventional desk.” “Female employees can handle this compact product with ease,” the new foreward proclaimed:

The 1910 edition (revised to 1950) of the Insurance Maps of Davenport Iowa was republished by the company in this “fun-size” format in 1956. Sheets were assembled in three “Bar-Loc” brand binders, comprising volumes 1A, 1, and 2.


Key Map









The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center was fortunate enough to acquire this well-kept set from a downtown Davenport insurance company in recent years. Revisions and corrections date to September 1978, making it possible to track changes to the city’s appearance over the three decades after the 1940’s updates to our copy of the 1910 edition.

We were especially delighted to see that our 1968 Edward Durrell Stone-designed Davenport Public Library building is documented in this set of maps! The outline of the original Carnegie building is still visible underneath the paste-down.

The handy Description and Utilization of the Sanborn Map was issued along with the three-volume set. These instructions, complete with the charming fictional city of Sanbornville, NY as an exemplar, offer insight into how the the maps were used not only by fire insurance companies, but also banks, mortgage companies, utility companies, and various government agencies.

A slip of paper from the Sanborn Map Company inserted among the pages of this booklet reads “…it is understood that your copy of the superseded conventional map…will be physically destroyed following transfer of your data to this replacement reduced size map.” Being in the business of helping people research the history of their homes and their ancestors’ residences and businesses in years prior to 1956, we are grateful that the original owner of our 1910 edition of the Insurance Maps of Davenport Iowa did not heed this command!

In addition to the “conventional” and “reduced size” 1910 Sanborn maps of Davenport, the Center’s collection includes print and microfiche copies of the 1886 maps, and both a microfiche and an original bound copy of the 1892 set.  As of a year ago this month, the Library of Congress began publishing digitial copies of the Sanborn fire insurance maps in its collection online, so we can now direct researchers to the 1886 and 1892 editions of the Davenport maps in color. An 1895 map of LeClaire and a 1913 map of Dixon in Scott County are available on the site, as well as maps for many other Iowa cities and towns.

Join us this Tuesday night for Lisa Louise Cook’s advice on conducting genealogical research using Sanborn fire insurance maps, or visit the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center anytime to view the Davenport maps in our collection!

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