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Historical Missouri Maps are Now Digitized

An Easy Click Takes You Back to Missouri Cities in the 1880s

Maps from 1880 to 1920 of Missouri Cities Are Now Digitalized at University of Missouri Library’s Website

By Kelsey Jackson

COLUMBIA, Mo. – With a quick computer search by city or street name, people can now study historical maps of every Missouri city between the years of 1883 to 1922 online at the University of Missouri’s Digital Library Web site.
Originally compiled and published by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company to assess the risk of insuring property, the 6,500 maps in the digitized Sanborn collection are drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch. The maps include detailed information such as location of water mains, fire alarms and fire hydrants and are color-coded to identify the construction material of each building.

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) through the Missouri State Library of the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office gave the University of Missouri-Columbia Libraries a $16,208 grant to digitize and index the maps. The process took 18 months to complete. Now, people anywhere can see maps that were previously only available at the MU Libraries and Library of Congress. Plat books from Missouri counties that were produced by the government also are available at the library’s Web site.

“The maps are quite rare and those maps published before 1923 belong in the public domain,” said Michael Holland, head of special collection, archives and rare books at the MU Libraries. “Taken together, these maps reveal layers of change, allowing us to see the same area developed over time.”

People use the historical maps to research genealogy and historic buildings, to prove property rights and to study the history of a Missouri town, Holland said.

“Studying these maps really allows you to understand how a city grew,” Holland said. “They are historical records of the state and provide us with insight about some of the major land and property owners during that time. One of the remarkable aspects of these maps is their condition. The Library of Congress did a great job maintaining them and that makes a great deal of difference when examining the details of the maps. Sanborn maps published after 1922 through 1951 are available in hard copy at the MU Libraries’ Special Collections & Rare Book Department, but are not currently available online due to copyright restrictions.”

Founded in 2001, the University’s Digital Library has 20 text collections and 23 image collections including World War I sheet music, MU sports posters, and Victorian studio portrait photographs. Other items recently digitalized include the Missouri Alumnus, the MU alumni monthly magazine; The Savitar, the MU yearbook; and The Tiger Claw, the yearbooks of University High School at MU.

To view the maps, please visit:

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