Pinpointing Places

  • Mark Monmonier
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


Patented schemes for identifying rural places peaked well before patents addressing travel mapping and map folding. These schemes provided an alternative to the Public Land Survey System, and one anticipated by eight decades the “quadtree” data structure adopted for digital mapping in the 1970s. Particularly emblematic is the Clock System patented in 1915 by John Byron Plato to give rural residents a “real address,” just like their urban counterparts. Twelve sectors defined by lines radiating from each locally important central place were superimposed on concentric circles a mile apart, which divided the surrounding area into “blocks.” All residences within each block were assigned a unique number or letter to produce a rural address, which was listed in a “rural directory” published along with a map.


Clock System Compass System Feed Rack Genesee County Agricultural Adjustment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© Mark Monmonier 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Monmonier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public AffairsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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