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Sanborn Story

The Sanborn Company has been making maps of New York City since 1867. Originally created to help fire insurance companies calculate risk, Sanborn maps depict with incredible specificity the evolution of nearly every corner of the city over the past 140 years. These maps show everything from back porches to fire hydrants. They also serve as an indispensable resource for historians, architects, preservationists, archeologists and urban planners.

Photo of a map The company has its own rich history. Sanborn relocated from lower Manhattan to Pelham, N.Y. in 1907. By the 1920s, it had over 1,000 employees drafting, printing and distributing its bound volumes of lithographic maps, which were updated and reissued every couple years. The maps were kept up-to-date by Sanborn "reporters," who would canvas the streets of New York (and other cities) sketching details of the landscape. These reporters were at times shot at, bitten by dogs, locked out on roofs, and picked up as potential spies.

Photo of a map Today Sanborn is headquartered in Colorado Springs, with offices all over the United States. The company does photogrammetric mapping and works in geographic information systems (GIS). Sanborn's aerial photography of Manhattan was recently incorporated into (Google Earth), a geographic application developed by the Mountain View, California-based search engine giant.

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