Fire Insurance Maps, 1906-1992

Texas Department of Insurance, Texas State Fire Marshal:

An Inventory of Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal Fire Insurance Maps at the Texas State Archives, 1906-1992, undated, bulk 1920-1980

Organization History Scope and Contents Restrictions Related Materials
Index Map for Albany, Texas

Example: Index Map for Albany, Texas

Overview

Creator: Texas. State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Title: Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal fire insurance maps
Dates: 1906-1992, undated
Dates: bulk 1920-1980
Abstract: The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) regulates the Texas insurance industry. The Texas State Fire Marshal is a division of the TDI that promotes fire safety through prevention, education and protection. These Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal fire insurance maps are commercially printed and hand-drawn and were used by the State Fire Marshal’s office to determine fire insurance rates for Texas cities and towns. Maps date from 1906 to 1992, undated, bulk dating from 1920 to 1980.
Quantity: 136.13 cubic ft.
Language:English
Repository: Texas State Archives
Sponsor: The preparation and digitization of this collection for online public access was funded in full or in part with a Library Services and Technology Act (20 U.S.C. § 9121) grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Other Finding Aids

A description of non-electronic records referenced in this finding aid are available at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/11002/tsl-11002.html.


Organization of the Records

Maps are arranged alphabetically by city name, and then by map type and creator. The inventory ends with one map covering multiple cities in Lubbock County, one map of an unidentified city in Jasper County, and two maps for which the city and county are unknown.

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History of the Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps are large-scale plans of cities that display individual buildings and other features, noting characteristics that relate to fire risks. They became commonly used throughout the insurance industry in the mid to late 19th century, when catastrophic losses from major fires in many American cities led to new industry requirements for significant reserve funds to ensure coverage for such losses in the future. As a result, an industry-wide shift occurred away from the small, local insurance providers that were more common at the time, and toward larger insurance companies that served expansive regions of the country. Because insurance agents could no longer personally visit cities and towns that they underwrote to determine fire risks, fire insurance maps became the standard resource for insurance companies to evaluate the fire defenses of communities.

The same disastrous fires also generated demand for a better way to assess fire hazards in cities and towns. In 1916, a fire insurance industry standard was produced by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, “Standard Grading Schedule for Grading Cities and Towns.” Texas adopted an evaluation process in 1918, based on the 1916 standards, for establishing fire insurance rates for individual properties and communities. Items evaluated to determine the rates included the fire department’s method for receiving and handling fire alarms, the capability of the fire department to fight fires, and the capability of the community’s existing water supply to fight fires. The more proficient a community was judged in fighting fires, the lower the rate, resulting in lower fire insurance rates for the individual properties within that community. The State Fire Marshal used fire insurance maps to assist in setting these key rates.

The Sanborn Map Company began operations in 1867, and by 1920 was the predominant creator and publisher of fire insurance maps in the country. It developed an exclusive symbol key and a method of updating maps by pasting on corrections slips. The production of fire insurance maps slowed during the Depression of the 1930s and was disrupted by World War II. Thereafter, the market for fire insurance maps waned as new methods for assessing fire risks emerged and mergers altered the structure of insurance companies, allowing them to hire in-house inspectors. The company stopped adding new maps to its catalog in the 1960s, and began offering revisions only. The Sanborn Map Company is still in existence today, but has shifted its focus to geographic information system services.

Fire insurance maps were used by the State Fire Marshal’s office of the Texas Department of Insurance as part of its function to determine fire insurance rates for Texas cities and towns. The fire marshal used Sanborn maps for cities when available and created its own fire insurance maps for smaller towns and communities without Sanborn map coverage. The fire marshal also created sheets to supplement Sanborn maps for larger cities and towns, keys to sheets created by agency draftsmen that outlined and labeled areas covered by the agency-drawn fire insurance maps, and street maps showing streets and water system features drawn by the Department of Insurance and its predecessors to accompany many of the agency-drawn fire insurance maps.

(Sources include: Oswald, Diana L., Fire Insurance Maps, Their History and Applications, 1st edition (1997); web page of the Library of Congress Sanborn Map Collection https://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/san4a1.html, accessed April 25, 2016; and documents found within the State Fire Marshal’s records.)

(Click here to read the full agency history for the Department of Insurance)

(Click here to read the agency history for the State Fire Marshal)


Scope and Content of the Records

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) regulates the Texas insurance industry. The Texas State Fire Marshal is a division of the TDI that promotes fire safety through prevention, education and protection. These Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal fire insurance maps are commercially printed and hand-drawn and were used by the State Fire Marshal’s office to determine fire insurance rates for Texas cities and towns. Criteria evaluated to set rates included methods for receiving and handling fire alarms and fighting fires, and the availability of the community’s water supply to fight fires. Records date from 1906 to 1992, undated, bulk dating from 1920 to 1980.

These fire insurance maps include those commercially produced by the Sanborn Map Company, hand-drawn maps created by the Department of Insurance and its predecessors, and locally or commercially produced supplemental maps. Most Sanborn maps in the collection comprise multiple sheets and include streets, railroads, buildings, and water system features. Additions to sheets by the Sanborn Company are present for many maps and can cover a 20- to 30-year period. While most additions are slips of paper pasted onto the original map, some sheets also have hand-drawn additions by the agency draftsmen. Sanborn maps in these records date from 1906 to 1989, undated, bulk dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. Also present are a set of hand-drawn plans of towns and cities created by draftsmen of the Department of Insurance and its predecessors for the State Fire Marshal’s use; the most common creators of these maps are the Texas Fire Insurance Department and the Texas State Board of Insurance. Most maps comprise multiple sheets and include streets, railroads, buildings, and water system features. Many maps depict locations not covered by the Sanborn Company, often those in more rural areas. Others maps are sheets for subdivisions or other outlying areas of cities supplementing areas on a Sanborn-produced map of that city. Hand-drawn single city sheets and supplement sheets are dated 1924-1974, undated, bulk 1920s-1960s. The records also include agency-produced street maps with added color-coded keys or notations. These maps outline the areas covered by the hand-drawn fire insurance maps and serve as keys or indexes to the maps with multiple sheets. A small number of locally or commercially produced maps are also included. These consist of street maps without keys, public utility (water use) maps, zoning maps, building plans, plat maps, and blueprints that supplement data in the fire insurance maps. Dates covered by the index maps and other supplemental maps are 1924-1992, undated, bulk 1930s-1970s.

The records contain maps of east Texas, the Houston/southeast Texas area, the Corpus Christi/south Texas area, the Panhandle, southwest Texas, and central Texas. Maps were not created for all cities in these areas. Certain maps originally contained in these records reside in Regional Historical Depositories of the State Library and Archives Commission: maps of the El Paso area are maintained at the University of Texas at El Paso Library Special Collections, maps of the north Texas area are maintained at the University of Texas at Arlington Library Special Collections, and maps of the Rio Grande Valley are maintained at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Library Special Collections.

The fire insurance maps at the State Archives were bound in volumes when accessioned. Most volumes have since been disbound and added to the Archives’ map collection, with the exception of volumes containing exclusively Sanborn maps. Maps still formatted as volumes appear in the inventory under their volume call number, while disbound maps are listed by their folder number within a map box or map drawer. The inventory also lists the name of the city or cities (or more specific locations associated with the map), county or counties, date, number of sheets in the map set, and map type. Notes list any known conservation issues for the map and also indicate if the map has not been digitized. The inventory also lists the creator of the map (Sanborn Map Company, Texas Fire Insurance Department, or other predecessor agencies to the Department of Insurance, etc.), and additional information such as the sheet numbers of maps created by the agency (A1-A10, B1-B6, etc.) and dates associated with additions.

Between 2006 and 2016, the hand-drawn single city and supplement maps and their accompanying index maps were digitized for public access. Due to U.S. copyright law, maps produced by the Sanborn Map Company, other private companies, or an unknown creator were not scanned. Map types such as street maps without keys, public utility maps, zoning maps, building plans, plat maps, and blueprints were not scanned. Additionally, a number of index maps were found to be too large to scan. Image files of digitized maps presented for public use are in .jpg format. Files in their original format (.tif) are available on request.


Restrictions and Requirements

Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).

Technical Requirements
Most fire insurance maps are too large to photocopy. Because the majority of the maps are fragile and oversized, researchers are encouraged to use the digital images of scanned maps, when available.


The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the agencies and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive.

Texas State Archives
Texas Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal key rate files, 1893, 1904-1999, undated, bulk 1930-1997, 187 cubic ft., 1347 maps
Texas State Board of Insurance, Property hearings, 1910-1957, 13 cubic ft.
Texas State Board of Insurance, Records, 1927-1970, 24 cubic ft.
University of Texas at El Paso Library, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department
El Paso area fire insurance maps
University of Texas at Arlington Library, Special Collections
North Texas area fire insurance maps
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Library, Special Collections
Rio Grande Valley area fire insurance maps

Administrative Information

Other Formats for the Records
Select fire insurance maps have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive. Maps that are not available as digitized images online are so noted in the inventory available in the Texas Archival Resources Online at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/11002/tsl-11002.html.

Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Texas Department of Insurance State Fire Marshal fire insurance maps. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Accession Information
Accession numbers: 2002/082, 2005/059, 2005/062, 2005/088, 2005/133, 2010/118, 2012/179, 2016/166

These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the State Fire Marshal’s Office of the Texas Department of Insurance on December 12, 2001 and June 20, 2012; the University of Houston on November 17, 2004; the University of Texas at Tyler on December 2, 2004; the University of Texas at San Antonio on January 21, 2005; Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi on March 22, 2005; Texas Tech University via the Texas State Board of Insurance on June 28, 2010; and Texas Tech University on June 23, 2016.

Processing Information
Processed by Caitlin Burhans, April 2016