Dan Sanborn was born in Flushing, New York on January 15, 1916. He moved with his family to Miami, Florida in 1924 and then to Lakeland two years later. With brief interruptions, Lakeland was his home from that point forward.
After he graduated from high school in 1934, Sanborn was offered a job at the local newspaper, The Lakeland Ledger. He became one of the newspaper's few reporters and its only photographer and covered everything from city commission meetings, to a visit to Lakeland by Henry Ford, to the Detroit Tigers spring training camp.
Sanborn left The Ledger in 1941 to work as a photographer and public relations official at the recently established Lodwick School of Aeronautics in Lakeland. He took photographs and produced brochures and other public relations materials for the school, which trained pilots for service in the Army Air Force. He enlisted in the Navy in early 1942, serving in Naval Intelligence until his discharge in 1946.
Upon his return to Lakeland after the war, Sanborn established a number of businesses. He took photographs and produced promotional films for commercial clients ranging from the City of Lakeland, to the Chamber of Commerce, to Cypress Gardens. In 1960, Sanborn accepted the position of news director of radio station WONN in Lakeland. He remained there until his retirement in 1982.
Even while working at WONN Sanborn continued to take photographs. In a 1992 newspaper interview, he estimated that he had taken more than 100,000 photographs in his long career. He began donating negatives of some of those estimated 100,000 photographs to the Special Collections unit of the Lakeland Public Library in 1990, when the library used some of his photographs in an exhibit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Lodwick School of Aeronautics.
All told, Sanborn donated more than 6,000 negatives to the Special Collections unit, most dating from the late 1930's to the early 1950's. In the intervening years, the library has obtained a number of grants to have prints and duplicate negatives made of about one third of the negatives. It continues to have prints made as funds become available.
Dan Sanborn's skill wth a camera, his appreciation for Lakeland's history, and his generous spirit have combined to give students of Lakeland's history a resource beyond measure.
Dan Sanborn died in his beloved Lakeland on April 4, 2001. He was 85.