Sanborn Maps in Iowa

Sanborn Maps are highly detailed maps of towns that were created by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. between 1883 and 1951. The idea was to determine the amount of risk there would be in insuring any particular building based on it’s surroundings. (What businesses surrounded it? Were buildings flush against each other or were they set back? etc?) Although the majority of the maps have passed out of copyright, what is easily available is another question. This differs from state to state. Some states or other groups have committed resources to scanning the maps for their area and uploading and maintaining them. ProQuest (a for profit digital content provider) has also scanned the maps and makes them available through a subscription. In Iowa access to the maps is provided through ProQuest. You just have to sign up for a card for the State Library of Iowa. Once you have your card number you can log on for free.

Find the link for the Sanborn Maps and other database sign ins here:

If you live in the state of Iowa, you can get a State Library Card here:

In Missouri, they provide the maps from before 1924 for free through the University of Missouri libraries, without a card number:
Look for Mansfield in 1913.


Homesites Open for Season

Independence Cabin Interior

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Season has officially gotten underway again. If you plan a Laura trip before they open, make sure you call ahead. The homesite museums that are not fully open, may or may not be able to accommodate you by opening the museum, etc. or giving lists of what there is to see.

Pepin, WI – Opens May 15, 2012

Independence, KS – Opened April 1, 2012

Walnut Grove, MN – Opened April 1, 2012, Dugout Site not open until May

Burr Oak, IA – Opened April 1, 2012, Mon.-Sat.  10am-4pm, Sun. 12-4, After Memorial Day Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm, Sun. 12-4

De Smet, SD –
Memorial Society – Open in April Mon.-Fri. 9am-4pm, in May Mon.-Sat. 9am-4pm, June-August 9am-5:30pm

Ingalls Homestead – Opens Memorial Day Weekend, Sat., May  26, 2012 for regular 9am -7pm every day with activities from 10am -6pm  schedule

Mansfield, MO – Opened March 1st

Malone, NY – Opens Saturday before Memorial Day and then open 7 days a week

Spring Valley, MN – Opens Memorial Day

Keystone, SD – Opens June 1, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection

Relic from Graces House

It seems like there is something about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing that does compel people to try to find and possess a piece of “Laura World” as Wendy McClure calls it, by collecting physical things. Many of the things the Ingalls Family had were mass produced and therefore it is possible to find and buy the same or extremely similar things to those mentioned in the books and found on display in Laura’s last home in Mansfield, Missouri.

Laura’s Glass Bread Plate (famously featured in The First Four Years), a replica of Laura’s doll Charlotte, sunbonnets (worn on strings trailing down your back), and mounted twigs from the Ingalls Homestead Memorial Site in De Smet are common. Less common but still popular are the other pieces in Laura’s bread plate glassware, her china patterns and assorted knickknacks. My own collection also includes a lot of period things mentioned in the books, like a bullet mold, a butter mold, a Braille slate, autograph albums, etc.

However, I also own things like the relic pictured above. When Grace’s house was torn down some enterprising person connected with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet got a hold of some boards from the house sawed them up into thin slices and sold them at the gift shop. I also have a hunk of the Loftus Store wall which they also cut into pieces and sold when they cut through to join two store buildings. Plus wheat grown on the Ingalls Homestead and a shingle off Rocky Ridge, sadly this is off the second time they re-did the roof although the roof that was there when Laura was was also sold off a shingle at a time in their gift shop.

What’s the most unusual thing you have in your collection? Or what is still serving as your white whale? Currently I’m looking for just the right bear trap and a set of the character dolls created by California doll maker Barbara Brooks and described by Laura in the only known recording of her voice.

UPDATE: I appreciate the people who commented on the post with things in your collection. I’d have to say the only thing odder I’ve added to my collection is a paperdoll of me as Laura.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

New Laura Documentary Announced

Rocky Ridge Farmhouse
Rocky Ridge Farmhouse

The Winter 2009/2010 issue of Rocky Ridge Review announces that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum was partnering with Ozark Public Television to produce a documentary on Laura Ingalls Wilder. Tentatively titled Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Life Stories of a Pioneer Girl, the documentary will be filmed mostly around Mansfield, it will cover all of Laura’s life. It will feature both reenactments and a collection of archival images and documents. Tess Harper will narrate the documentary that is scheduled for release in Spring 2010.

OPT reports that they expect to have the documentary to the museum by April. They haven’t yet set an airdate yet, but plan to broadcast it on OPT. You may want to express your interest in seeing this production to your local PBS station.

Thanks for the grant

It was recently announced that the Louis and Dorothy Coover Regional Grantmaking Program contributed a grant of at least $4,800 to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. Unfortunately, the only news release I found only gave a range not a specific amount. Some of their donations were much higher and I home they were generous with Mansfield. Learn more about the foundation here:

Look for Mansfield’s blink and you missed it mention in this article that gives the amounts. Yes, most of it is about a drug court, keep reading. 😉