A Footprint of American History

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Julia Hahn

A Footprint of American History: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Observed from a German Perspective

ISBN 978-3-86821-091-0, 109 S., 53 Abb., € 18,00 (CD-ROM, 2008)

(Cultural Studies in the Heartland of America, Bd. 8)

Fire insurance maps were mainly produced from 1850 until the mid nineteenth century in the United States. At that time the maps provided insurance companies with explicit information about the entities they insured. Today, these magnificently detailed maps draw a clear picture of America's urban past. The Sanborn Map Company, among many other producers, started publishing fire insurance maps and with time established a monopoly on the market. This work examines the historical development of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and their current use in various fields of research, such as genealogy or urban history, and includes a visual tour through a building's history by using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps as sources. German historic city maps are introduced and compared to their American counterparts in respect to application, availability and usability and thereby reveal cultural components. The concluding analysis of implicit cultural influences in both maps completes this study.