The Sanborn Map Company of New York was established in 1867 to prepare detailed street maps of American towns and cities. These maps were intended as business aids for fire insurance companies, so maps of a particular city would contain detailed outlines of each building and structure, notes on the materials used to construct them, indications of water mains, electrical wiring, and other specific items. These maps were drawn exactly to scale, at one inch per 50 or 100 feet. The Sanborn Company usually updated the maps for a particular city every few years.
The Sanborn Map Company no longer exists, and the original need for its maps – fire insurance information – has long since been met by other means. However, the maps of the company have proven to be of priceless value for local historical research.
The reel of film contains Sanborn maps of several Minnesota communities, of which only one, Moorhead, is in the northwest part of the state. There are sets of maps for Moorhead on the film. Each set contains one full map of the city, followed by detailed maps of each section of Moorhead. The detailed maps show in exact scale the location of each structure on each street. Special symbols and appended information for the buildings indicate the material used in construction, the number of floors on a structure, the presence or absence of electrical wiring and water pipes. The purpose of each building – as a dwelling, a restaurant, dry goods store, etc. – is also indicated.