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Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Philadelphia - Microform Collection: Overview

How to use Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Philadelphia on microform


This guide describes Penn Libraries microform holdings for Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and related materials in the Penn Libraries collections.

Historic Sanborn Maps for Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania cities and for major US cities have been digitized and are available to Penn readers:



Sanborn Map Company.

Sanborn fire insurance maps, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia [microform]. Teaneck, N.J.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1983. 8 microfilm reels; 35 mm. Black and white.
Van Pelt Library Microforms / Microfilm 3839

Fire insurance maps from the Sanborn Map Company archives, late 19th century to 1990, Pennsylvania[: Philadelphia only]. Bethesda, Md.: University Publications of American, 1990. 11 microfilm reels; 35 mm. Black and white.
Van Pelt Library Microforms / Microfilm 4333



Microfilm reproduction of fire insurance maps produced by Sanborn Map Company, 1916-1980 covering Philadelphia county, Pennsylvania. The two microfilm sets represent building outlines and hydrant access for structures in Philadelphia through several revisions of Sanborn maps. The original maps also indicate building construction materials through coloration. The original maps were drawn at 1:600 or 1":500' scale.

The Chadwyck-Healey set, reproduced from originals held at Library of Congress, consists of two complete sets of Sanborn maps, each completely covering the city in 28 volumes: 1916-1929 and 1916-May 1951. These two series represent the original base map set and a later map set showing revisions.

The UPA set provides one complete set covering the city in 33 volumes, 1976-1980. Earlier revisions of selected volumes have also been reproduced, covering 1964-1976.



A "Graphic map of volumes" at the beginning of each series' Volume 1 indicates the boundaries of each volume's coverage. A similar index map at the beginning of each volume, accompanied by a street index text, indicates the boundaries of each sheet covered by that volume. Each sheet is marked in an upper corner with the volume and sheet numbers.

The Chadwyck-Healey set reproduces the two earlier Sanborn map series in two separate series. The volumes are split among the 8 microfilm reels in this arrangement:

  1. First series. Philadelphia 1916-1929. Reels 1-4.
    • Reel 1 (= Pennsylvania reel 42). Philadelphia 1916-1929, volumes 1-7
    • Reel 2 (= Pennsylvania reel 43). Philadelphia 1916-1929, volumes 8-14
    • Reel 3 (= Pennsylvania reel 44). Philadelphia 1916-1929, volumes 15-22
    • Reel 4 (= Pennsylvania reel 45). Philadelphia 1916-1929, volumes 23-28
  2. Second series. Philadelphia 1916-May 1951. Reels 5-8.
    • Reel 5 (= Pennsylvania reel 46). Philadelphia 1916-May 1951, volumes 1-7
    • Reel 6 (= Pennsylvania reel 47). Philadelphia 1916-May 1951, volumes 8-14
    • Reel 7 (= Pennsylvania reel 48). Philadelphia 1916-May 1951, volumes 15-22
    • Reel 8 (= Pennsylvania reel 49). Philadelphia 1916-May 1951, volumes 23-28

The UPA set arranges Sanborn map volumes according to volume number; revised volumes are arranged chronologically. The volumes are split among the 11 microfilm reels in this arrangement:

  • Reel 1 (= Pennsylvania reel 16). Philadelphia volumes 1-2
  • Reel 2 (= Pennsylvania reel 17). Philadelphia volumes 3-6
  • Reel 3 (= Pennsylvania reel 18). Philadelphia volumes 7-9
  • Reel 4 (= Pennsylvania reel 19). Philadelphia volumes 10-11
  • Reel 5 (= Pennsylvania reel 20). Philadelphia volumes 12-13
  • Reel 6 (= Pennsylvania reel 21). Philadelphia volumes 14-15
  • Reel 7 (= Pennsylvania reel 22). Philadelphia volumes 16-18
  • Reel 8 (= Pennsylvania reel 23). Philadelphia volumes 19-21
  • Reel 9 (= Pennsylvania reel 24). Philadelphia volumes 22-24
  • Reel 10 (= Pennsylvania reel 25). Philadelphia volumes 25-26
  • Reel 11 (= Pennsylvania reel 26). Philadelphia volumes 27-33



See "ARRANGEMENT" above for information on index maps.


Library of Congress. Geography and map division. Reference and bibliography section. Fire insurance maps in the Library of Congress: plans of North American cities and town produced by the Sanborn Map Company. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1981.
[Van Pelt Reference: HG 9771 .L53]
A checklist of Library of Congress holdings, with an excellent introductory chapter describing the Sanborn Map Company, map production and updating.


Hoehn, R. Philip. Union list of Sanborn fire insurance maps held by institutions in the United States and Canada. 2 volumes. Occasional paper - Western Association of Map Libraries no. 2-3. Santa Cruz, Ca.: Western Association of Map Libraries, 1976-1977.
[Van Pelt Reference: HG 9771 .H63 1976]
Useful for identifying libraries holding original paper copies.



There really aren't any comparable resources -- Sanborn destroyed its competition!

Sanborn Map Company. Insurance maps of the city of Philadelphia. Sanborn, 1916-1917.
[Fine Arts: Folio 912.7481 .P534]
An incomplete and fragmentary volume of Sanborn maps for Philadelphia. Fine Arts also holds print copies of Sanborn maps for surrounding counties.


Ernest Hexamer & Son. Insurance maps of the city of Philadelphia. 3 volumes. Philadelphia: E. Hexamer,
[Fine Arts: Folio 912.7481 .H512]
A local competitor to Sanborn, 1880-1920.


Van Pelt and Fine Arts Libraries own a number of mid- and late-nineteenth century and early twentieth-century atlases, most of which show building or lot outlines. Names associated with these atlases are George William Baist (1880s-1890s), G.H. Jones (1870s), Griffith Morgan Hopkins (1870s), Jacob E. Schiedt (1890s), James D. Scott (1870s), Samuel L. Smedley (1860s), Elvino V. Smith (1900s-1910s), J.L. Smith (1910s). Searching Franklin with keywords, e.g., "skey maps AND skey philadelphia", will identify Penn Library holdings.


The Free Library of Philadelphia's Map Collection is an excellent resource for Philadelphia maps. In addition to the country's largest collection of regional Sanborns and Hexamers, and an extensive collection of other atlases, the Map Collection holds three sets of aerial photographs for the Philadelphia area: Aero Service Corporation (1945-1950), Dallin Aerial Surveys (1930), and Regional Planning Federation of the Philadelphia Tri-State District (1929).


Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Building outline maps.
Current copies of these maps, which use Sanborns as base maps, are sold at A.C. Reproduction 1510 Sansom St. Tel.: 215-563-5594



Chadwyck-Healey set (Sanborn maps through 1951) - Van Pelt Microforms: Microfilm 3839
UPA set (Sanborn maps, 1964-1980) - Van Pelt Microforms: Microfilm 4333

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