Clock and Compass book cover

Clock and Compass

How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address


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2022
196 pages, 12 b&w photos, 32 b&w maps, 11 b&w figures, 6 × 9 inches
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$19.95
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9781609388218
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9781609388225

“A leading expert in twentieth-century cartography, Mark Monmonier has given us a thoroughly researched and engaging history of John Byron Plato and his ingenious, patented clock system for creating rural addresses. This is a must read.”—Judith Tyner, author, Women in American Cartography: An Invisible Social History

“Well-written, thoroughly researched, and richly illustrated, Mark Monmonier’s Clock and Compass is more than a simple tale of an entrepreneurial cartographer. The fact that Plato’s system was not widely utilized does not make the story less significant. Monmonier offers insight into geography and mapmaking, the changing social landscape of rural America, and government bureaucracy.”
—J. L. Anderson, author, Capitalist Pigs: Pigs, Pork, and Power in America

John Byron Plato was many things: a soldier, draftsman, inventor, teacher, and ran both a lumberyard and veneers business. In his early thirties he added rancher to the list when he bought farmland north of Denver, Colorado, and began raising Guernsey cattle. When an interested buyer eager to see his calves couldn’t find his farm, Plato realized that an RFD postal address was only good for delivering mail. Plato’s “Clock System” solution was a map-and-directory approach that used direction and distance from a local business center to give farmers a real address. What follows is a tale of persistence and failure as rural farming declined and technology and capitalism overtook John Byron Plato’s chance at geographic immortality.