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THE DISCOVERY OF THE USE OF SANFORD FIRE INSURANCE MAPS FOR LOCATING PRIVIESThis story is true and as accurate as my memory is able to recall. Over the years I have told this information to others and have been mostly disbelieved. I don’t know why, it is not a feather in my cap and makes me no more important or a celebrity than anyone else. So believe it or not!In about 1963 I discovered bottle collecting and a short time later met a fellow from the Southern California area who became one of my favorite characters. A very nice but unusual guy, I’ll call him Rock. Rock was, among other interesting things, a historian who specialized in the local 19[sup]th[/sup] century. He was very industrious, imaginative and inventive. He thought outside the box when it came to hunting for bottles. He was particularly interested in 19[sup]th[/sup] century architecture living in a third quarter century farm house himself. While doing architecture research he came across the Sanford Fire Insurance maps in a metropolitan California Title Insurance Companies archives. These maps are drawn in exact scale. He was able to borrow the original copies and had them copied at a blueprinting establishment. These things are large and show buildings of all types in amazing detail including the exact location of the privy structures. They dated from the 1880s to the 1920s. (Remember, Southern California is not all that old compared to the East) He then returned the originals to their home. He tested these out in his local area and then offered my local area maps to me. We made tissue paper tracings so we didn’t have to carry the very revealing full sheets to the dig areas and take the chance of discovery. We felt the need of secrecy as this method of locating privies was unheard of. For a period of several years we were able to astound our digging partners with quick probing experiences. They didn’t have a clue.On one occasion, after an entire city block was surface scraped clean of structures, I probed out no less than 2 dozen privies, marked them and then my team blitzed the block in a weekend. We all pocketed dozens / hundreds of bottles and I got all the locals as my share. The team was totally mystified.As a brief explanation of the maps intended use, the Sanborn Company, as I understand it, were charged with the responsibility of mapping, in detail, all structures within a certain jurisdiction to establish a “Fire Rating” for that municipality. Depending on the type of structures in the area and the municipalities ability to control fires in their area, individual insurance companies then set rates for individual properties. In other words, the lower the risk and / or the better the fire protection, the lower the rates to individuals.If you have questions I will be happy to try and answer them. I realize I haven’t covered it all. If you know of an earlier use of Sanborn maps let’s hear it.