How to catch a copycat criminal when it comes to map making? To protect their work – collecting data, drawing, check spelling etc. and constantly double checking with what is really out there – companies use a simple trick. This is to add small fake cities, streets or houses to the maps they produce. If someone copies the map, instead of producing a genuine one, the company will be able to identify the copycat criminal by indicating the artificially introduced features that do not exist in reality.
Agloe, a city on the maps of New York, was such a copyright trap. It was added by Otto G. Lindbergh and Ernest Alpers from General Drafting Co. to a road map in the state of New York that they made in the 1930s. A few years later it appeared on a map of the rival firm Rand McNally. Lindbergh and Alpers had every argument at hand to bring legal proceedings against the makers of the new map.
However, Rand McNally could prove that the place exists. They could show that there is a shop at the place in question that is named as ‘Agloe General Store’. The fake place was transformed into a real place through a series of events: The shop owner found the name on a map. The map was issued by Esso. Esso obtained the map from Lindbergh and Alpers. The shop owner used ‘Agloe’ from the Esso map to name his store.
‘Agloe General Store’ has vanished since. However, Agloe still appeared on Google Maps a few years ago. Whilst Google has removed the name since, the US Geological Survey added Agloe to the Geographic Names Information System.
John Green uses the myth of Agloe in his novel Paper Towns. The book was adapted into a film. Fans of book and film have recently reopened search for Agloe. Today, there is a sign where the coordinates appear on the map.
This is William H. Whyte‘s film ‘Social Life of Small Urban Spaces’ on the social dynamics of public squares and streets. At the time, it was considered as pioneering research because it used film cameras to study human conduct in measurable and objectiv way. The film was published with a book of the same title in 1980.
Whyte was also the founder of the Project for Public Spaces back in 1975. Today, PPS is a non-profit organisation that is using a Placemaking approach to advise on public space issues.