Colour coded and precise, fire insurance maps helped protect breweries at a time when urban fires were commonplace.

“Mapmaking for the insurance industry was serious business,” explains Jeffrey Murray in his book Terra Nostra 1550-1950: The Stories Behind Canada’s Maps, “because fire was serious business.” Murray, senior archivist for Library and Archives Canada, calls fire the “urban plague” of the late 19th century: before the First World War, there were more than 300 major fires in eastern Canada, five of them in Montreal. Fire insurance companies were established for this very reason.

The two maps below show some of the building materials and potential hazards of two Montreal breweries.

(Credit: Charles E. Goad. Atkin's Brewery, Montreal, Canada, 1980, Library and Archives Canada, E010757282-V8)

(Credit: Charles E. Goad. William Dow & Co. Brewery & Malthouse, Montreal, Canada, 1903, Library and Archives Canada, e003901103-v8)