Bullet of Mystery – Part 4

July 11, 1901, Lionel Comport lionel_comport_nd_crop

In case you just tuned in, I’m posting a small case study of research I did with Caroline Comport on her grandfather Lionel Comport for her master’s thesis. Researching Los Angeles is a treasure hunt, and every time I dig into the resources I find something new.

Bullet of Mystery – Part 1
Bullet of Mystery – Part 2
Bullet of Mystery – Part 3
In Part 2, we looked at some of the resources for online newspapers ,and in Part 3 we examined sites that have property records on the corner where Lionel Comport was shot in 1901. This time we’ll look at Sanborn maps of the neighborhood.  


  Sanborn Maps Splash  

The Los Angeles Public Library offers online access to Sanborn maps of Los Angeles to anyone with a library card. These detailed maps were prepared for fire insurance companies and show the footprint of buildings, plus information on stairways, elevators, construction materials, types of windows, etc.

Cities are typically divided into several books, with a street index at the front of each book.  There’s a learning curve to navigating the maps because the pages are large and many of them were broken into two scans.  Be patient and explore them thoroughly.

  Sanborn Map Logo  

Fans of old lettering (you know who you are) this is for you! 


On July 10, 1901, Lionel Comport was shot in the back as he was turning his milk wagon west from Toberman Street onto 20th Street. Here’s our crime scene as it appeared in the 1894 Sanborn maps. Notice that I had to combine two pages to show the entire intersection. Such are the joys of research.

  Sanborn maps, Toberman  

And here’s how the neighborhood looked in 1906. All those vacant lots have filled. Let’s get a closer look.

  Sanborn maps, Toberman  

And there’s our 1901 crime scene. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare it to a satellite map?

  toberman and 20th, satellite  

This is my attempt to combine a Sanborn map with a satellite image from Google Earth. It is more difficult than you might expect. 

  Toberman and 20th, Google Earth  

And finally, this is our 1901 crime scene as seen from Google Earth. Notice the 3-D rendering of some of the buildings. Very cool.

Next: On the frontiers of medicine.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, 1901, Architecture, Crime and Courts, LAPD, Real Estate. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply. Note: Your IP is logged with your comment so a fake name and email address are useless.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s