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How did I not hear of this before! The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company of Brooklyn, New York, compiled maps of towns all across the United States so that insurance companies could evaluate risk levels and price their services accordingly.

The Library of Congress made duplicates of these maps available to research libraries from the 1950s through the 1970s. In Missouri, the recipient of the Sanborn map collection was the University of Missouri in Columbia.

This rich treasure trove, now available in digital form, contains 1,283 maps of cities and towns across Missouri created from 1883 to 1951. They are incredibly detailed and provide a wonderful image of what a town was like at a particular time, all the way down to what type of business was housed at a specific location, whether the buildings were made of frame, brick, or stone, and even whether a factory had a watchman! For map geeks such as myself, this collection is an irresistible magnet. Goodbye, many future hours of my life. I’m diving in.