Lesson 6 – Puzzle Solving: Are Documents or Artifacts Better?

Primary Source Documents – Analyzing a Map

For a pdf document of the worksheet “How to Look at a Map” that can be enlarged for better viewing, click on the link below.

How to Look at a Map

The University of Montana Mansfield Library Web Site

To access the web site, click on the link below.


At the web site, scroll down to find the link for accessing digital Sanborn maps, as well as the user name and password information to log in to the site. After logging in, you will enter the name of a city you’d like to search and a date to narrow it down. Remember that you are interested in seeing a map of Chinatown in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

The Legend to Sanborn Maps

For a pdf document of the legend that can be enlarged for better viewing, click on the link below.

sanborn map legend

All the Sanborn Maps for Butte in 1900

Notice the index sheets and the key sheet. To locate the portion of the map containing Chinatown, you will need to use:

  • your research skills
  • an index sheet
  • a key sheet (optional, but may be helpful)
  • the address of the excavation (ask your teacher)

See if you can figure out how to locate the map  for Chinatown without outside help. Remember to ask your teacher for the address of the site at which the excavation took place. Good luck!

The Index with Locator Designations for Streets

If the print is hard to read, you can zoom in as shown by the red circle. If you lose your place after zooming in, you can also re-center the index as shown by the pink oval. Another option is to re-center by using the arrows on the sides.

For a pdf document of this index sheet that can be enlarged beyond 100% for better viewing, click on the link below.


The Map Showing Chinatown and Vicinity

Notice the compass rose. Which way is north? If it is difficult to see from this image, remember to check for the compass rose at the web site.


The Close-up Map of Chinatown

For Further Exploration

Students can test their proficiency in using the Sanborn map index. Challenge them to find a specific address or, if they live in Butte, invite them to find their own address or that of a friend or relative. Alternatively, ask students to go to the Sanborn maps for a different year and again find the 1-99 block of West Mercury Street, to see any changes in the block.

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