Thematic maps: Civil War & fire insurance

Information on thematic maps in America, feautring the subjects of the Civil War and fire insurance, as described by David Buisseret in From Sea Charts to Satellite Images.

Overview

This guide provides information on thematic maps in America, featuring the subjects of the Civil War and fire insurance, described by David Buisseret in From Sea Charts to Satellite Images.  It expands upon Buisseret's discussion of this cartography by showing examples of such maps housed in the David Rumsey Map Center.  In addition, it outlines how to perform advanced queries in SearchWorks to locate maps related to this subject.

 

"Maps are more than maps" - Abby Smith Rumsey

Vol. 4 Page 445-446. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 4 Page 445-446. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, Sanborn Map Company, 1905

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

History of Civil War maps

In the United States during the 19th century there was a huge increase in the production of thematic maps, such as on the subjects of demographics, railroads, and military posts (213).  

Military maps focused on the Civil War.  The federal government funded The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.

The War of the Rebellion

Image credit: Stanford Libraries

 

This documentation included maps, such as the 178 plates (of smaller works adding up to 775 maps) in the Atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies (214).  

Title page

Atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Fort Moultrie as seen from Fort Sumter

Fort Moultrie as seen from Fort Sumter

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Sketch of the battles of Chancellorsville, Salem Church and Fredericksburg, May 2, 3 and 4, 1863

Sketch of the battles of Chancellorsville, Salem Church and Fredericksburg, May 2, 3 and 4, 1863

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Coast of Texas and its defenses ...

Coast of Texas and its defenses

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Map of the United States of America showing the boundaries of the Union and Confederate geographical divisions and departments, Dec. 31, 1860

Map of the United States of America showing the boundaries of the Union and Confederate geographical divisions and departments, Dec. 31, 1860

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Map of the United States of America showing the boundaries of the Union and Confederate geographical divisions and departments, April 9, 1865

Map of the United States of America showing the boundaries of the Union and Confederate geographical divisions and departments, April 9, 1865

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Rebel lines. Mobile defenses ...

Rebel lines. Mobile defenses ...

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Rebel lines, Atlanta, Ga. south of Chattanooga R.R. with Federal Fort No. 7. Rebel lines near Chattanooga Railroad ... showing battery silenced by our fire ...

Rebel lines, Atlanta, Ga. south of Chattanooga R.R. with Federal Fort No. 7. Rebel lines near Chattanooga Railroad ... showing battery silenced by our fire ...

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

[Ordnance, ordnance stores, etc.]

[Ordnance, ordnance stores, etc.]

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

[Uniforms, officers and enlisted men]

[Uniforms, officers and enlisted men]

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

[Corps flags, badges, etc.]

[Corps flags, badges, etc.]

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

The Civil War maps were some of the most detailed mapping representing the southeastern states.  

Battle maps were of a large scale: up to 1” to 1,000’.  Military campaigns were of a smaller scale and included general topography of the country.  Due to the importance for military matters, topography was carefully captured, shown by hachures and even contours on larger-scale maps.

In addition, cartographers created ground plans of forts and installations.

The maps also showed roads, railways, settlement, rivers, swamps and forests, as well as natural resources, such as quarries, mines and agricultural fields.  Most larger-scale maps showed individual buildings in rural areas, bridges, churches and schools; with nearly half showing landowners or residents.  

The Union side created four-fifths fo the maps.  

The quality of the maps varied, ranging from some being drawn based upon "careful compass traverses" to those executed “hastily during a cavalry reconnaissance” (214).

Because of the historic nature of the data within the maps, they were ordered chronologically rather than geographically, making the “Graphic Index” critical for locating geographical information.

In addition to the Atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies, the David Rumsey Map Collection also includes manuscript maps, such as:

 

Part of the North Bank of the Rappahannock River … , C.A. Mallory, 1862

Part of the North Bank of the Rappahannock River … , C.A. Mallory, 1862 

Part of the North Bank of the Rappahannock River … , C.A. Mallory, 1862

Images credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

  

Part of Henrico County Virginia from Smith's Map … , U.S. Coast Survey, 1862

Part of Henrico County Virginia from Smith's Map … , U.S. Coast Survey, 1862

Part of Henrico County Virginia from Smith's Map … , U.S. Coast Survey, 1862

Images credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

More such manuscript maps of the Civil War can be found on the David Rumsey Map Collection website in the Cowell Collection.  The collection of Edwin T. Cowell came from the estate of one of his descendants who died in Massachusetts. Cowell was a Sergeant in the Signal Corps at the Headquarters of Maj. Gen. W.S. Rosecrans, Army of the Cumberland. These maps cover the campaigns of the Army of the Cumberland, as well as other campaigns. Cowell probably put the maps together toward the end of the war and up to 1869 (the latest date on any of the maps).

 

Additionally, a useful reference guide is Stephenson's Civil War maps : an annotated list of maps and atlases in the Library of Congress.

Civil War maps : an annotated list of maps and atlases in the Library of Congress

Image credit: Stanford Libraries

 

History of fire insurance maps

Fire insurance maps were originally created as a reference tool for fire insurance underwriters (214).  During the early 20th century, the dominant producers were the Sanborn Map Company, which covered over 13,000 towns in the United States and peaked in the early 1930s, and the Charles E. Goad Company.

 

The The Library of Congress is an excellent resource for fire insurance maps, with its Sanborn Map Collection, including:

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanborn Map Company, 1883

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanborn Map Company, 1883

Image credit: Library of Congress

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanborn Map Company, 1890

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanborn Map Company, 1890

Image credit: Library of Congress

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanborn Map Company, 1913

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanborn Map Company, 1913

Image credit: Library of Congress

 

Stanford also has fire insurance maps in its collections, both Goad and Sanborn.  Two examples of Goad's maps in Stanford's collection of Cape Town, South Africa Street Plans, part of a partnership with the University of Cape Town:

Insurance plan of Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa, 1895

Insurance plan of Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa

Image credit: University of Cape Town

 

[Insurance plan of Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa], 1956

[Insurance plan of Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa], 1956

Image credit: University of Cape Town

 

The format for these maps was usually hand-colored lithographs, in 21 x 25” sheets, and at a scale of 1” to 50’.  The maps were expensive because they were so detailed and typically produeced in small runs.  They were sold as subscriptions.

One remarkable feature of the Sanborn maps is the inclusion of pasted-on revisions, as exemplifed by the 11-volume atlas of Insurance maps of San Francisco, California, first produced in 1913 and including paste-on revisions up to 1982.  This atlas is not yet viewable online due to copyright restrictions, but the volumes may be paged to view in person at the David Rumsey Map Center, by clicking the blue "Request on-site access" button in SearchWorks. 

 

Paste-ons

Vol. 2, Page 195-196. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 2, Page 195-196. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

The Sanborn Map Company recalled older volumes when new editions were produced, in order to revise the outdated information with up-to-date corrections (215).   Paste-on corrections were utilized in order to “reduce production costs,” as in the case of a total of 31 revisions added to a 1928 base amp, up through 1959 (231).  Atlases of fire insurance maps usually include an index sheet that lays out the geography of the different parts represented within the work, such as in the Insurance maps of Frankfort, Franklin Co., Kentucky, Sanborn Map Company, 1907.

Insurance maps of Frankfort, Franklin Co., Kentucky [Sheet 1: Index]. Sanborn Map Company, 1907

Insurance maps of Frankfort, Franklin Co., Kentucky [Sheet 1: Index]. Sanborn Map Company, 1907

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Fire insurance maps show physical characteristics of individual buildings and fire-fighting equipment.  The data in the maps was conveyed with color-coding, such as the use of pink to represent brick, blue for stone, green for iron, and brown for adobe.  There were also many symbols & abbreviations, such as "D" for dwelling, "S" for store, and "sal." for saloon.  The granularity of detail included commercial names and numbers of buildings, as well as the heights and number of stories.  

Legend

Legend example

Image credit: Library of Congress

 

In addition to capturing details of buildings, fire insurance maps also showed the layout of streets in cities, cultivated lands and landowners, upon a base of topographic information, conveyed through contour lines, which provided a more detailed representation of the topography than hachures or shading.  In addition, these maps depicted military features, such as boundaries, for example: Union lines, and Confederate posts and batteries (225).  At the base level, these maps included elemental features, such as waterways, like Glen's creek, shown below:

 

Frankfort, Kentucky, [Sheet 6], Sanborn Map Company, 1907

Frankfort, Kentucky, [Sheet 6], Sanborn Map Company, 1907

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Agriculture

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 24, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 24, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Image credit: Library of Congress

 

Natural resources

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 18, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 18, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Image credit: Library of Congress

 

Fire insurance maps allow the study of both geographical comparisons of different parts of a city and also time slices of one geographical area, including the specificity of building utilization, such as hotels, boardinghouses, printing, carpentry, food stores, as well as wood and coal yards (227).  The dense information in these maps supports research by different kinds of scholars, such as genealogists, historians, geographers, demographers, and economists.  For instance, personal names provide potential for the study of genealogy, the numbers and locations of buildings indicate population density and agriculture (221), and human geography - such as that of African Americans in the South - can be traced by building labels such as “quarters,” “Free Negro,” “Negro Hse.” and “Free Town" (221).  Ethnic populations can be located by churches present and, for example, a “Colored Public School" or houses listed as "colored" (235).

 

Building utilization

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 11, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 11, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Image credit: Library of Congress 

 

“Grammar school colored”

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 14, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 14, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Image credit: Library of Congress 

 

“Mother Easter Baptist Church (Colored)”

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 15, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Moultrie, Ga., Sheet 15, Sanborn Map Company, 1920

Image credit: Library of Congress 

 

The Digital Sanborn maps, 1867-1970. California database is a useful resource for finding "most of the fire insurance maps of California produced by the Sanborn Map Company from the mid-1880s to around 1950. The black and white digital images were produced from microform of the Sanborn atlases in the Library of Congress collection. Digital collection is searchable by city and date."

 

Fire insurance maps of San Francisco

Insurance Maps. San Francisco, California. Published by Sanborn-Perris Map Co. Limited, 115 Broadway, New York. 1899. Scale, 50 Ft. to an Inch. Copyright 1899, by the Sanborn-Perris Map Co. Limited.

Insurance Maps. San Francisco, California. Published by Sanborn-Perris Map Co. Limited, 115 Broadway, New York. 1899. Scale, 50 Ft. to an Inch. Copyright 1899, by the Sanborn-Perris Map Co. Limited.

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

A series of six detailed insurance map volumes reflecting the specific building uses and construction types for the City of San Francisco in September 1905. This was just six months before the devastating April 1906 Earthquake and Fire. These volumes were in fact damaged by the fire but remain largely intact with some content loss in some of the volumes. The atlases are the property of the San Francisco Public Library. Original 1899 survey is overlaid with pasted-in building updates for ten different dates, the last being September 1905. Maps in full color with detailed legend including firehouses, stables, elevators, chimneys, steam boilers, firewalls, doorways, etc.

 

Coastline

Vol. 3, Page 267-268. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 3, Page 267-268. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Topography

Vol. 2, Page 175-176. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 2, Page 175-176. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

 Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Train

Vol. 2, Page 215-216. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 2, Page 215-216. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

  

City Hall

Vol. 1, Page 93-94. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 1, Page 93-94. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Commercial

Vol. 1, Page 21-22. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Vol. 1, Page 21-22. San Francisco Sanborn Insurance Map, 1905

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

How to search

To locate views in SearchWorks, you can perform either a simple keyword search or create an advanced query to refine your results.
 
For a keyword search, start at the SearchWorks home page.
SW home
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
From the Library  selection on the left margin, choose David Rumsey Map Center.
SW DRMC
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
Then type words relevant to your topic in the search box at the top, such as Civil War.
This kind of search will retrieve a variety of potentially relevant resources,
containging your search terms somewhere within the record, such as from the title, a description, or subject.
SW Civil War
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
For an advanced search, again start at the SearchWorks home page and choose David Rumsey Map Center.
Then, select Subject from the dropdown menu to the left of the search box and enter your search terms, such as Civil War.
This will return results for works that have been given the designation of this subject by a librarian. 
SW Civil War subject
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
There are several subject headings in the catalog relevant to this subject, such as: 
 
SW Civil War all
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
SW fire insurance all
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 

You can add a location to any of the above subjects, such as: 

Civil War, 1861-1865 Virginia

SW Civil War Virginia

Image credit: Stanford Libraries

 

or Fire insurance California

SW f

Image credit: Stanford Libraries

 
Once you find a map relevant to your search, notice the links under Subjects.  You can click on all or part of these links to find similar resources in the collection.  
For example, the map Lloyd's new military map of the border and southern states, includes this subject string:
 
SW Civil War search string
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
You can select the entire string by clicking the last part, in this case Maps.  Clicking here will bring up all items in the collection that a librarian has deemed to fall under this specific topical category: maps of the Civil War.  
SW Civil
Image credit: Stanford Libraries
 
To further open up your search for views and maps, at the beginning of your search, rather than faceting to the David Rumsey Map Center under Library,
you can leave that unselected and instead select Map under Resource Type. 
 
To further open up your search for views and maps, rather than faceting to the David Rumsey Map Center under Library, you can leave that unselected and instead select Map under Resource type.  
 
 SW Civil War maps all
Image credit: Stanford Libraries

 

This will pull up all resources from the Stanford University collections, including from other libraries that hold maps, such as the Branner Earth Sciences Library and East Asia Library.

SW Civil War maps libraries

Image credit: Stanford Libraries

 

Additionally, the David Rumsey Map Collection website is a superb resource for finding items within that collection.

Civil War

Rumsey Civil War

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

Fire Insurance

 Rumsey fire insurance

Image credit: David Rumsey Map Collection

 

For research assistance or any other reference service, please contact us at the David Rumsey Map Center.

 

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