Agloe, The Fake Town That Became Real
This is the story of Agloe, the fake town that became real. During the 1930’s, maps of New York started being flooded by the appearance of a small town name Agloe, that suddenly popped up on the state’s map.
The fake town was positioned near an unmarked dirt road, leading from Roscoe to Rockland, near Beaverkill (yeah, this name is a story all by itself!). Very few people ever had to go through that road, making it virtually abandoned. So, why would a fake town like Agloe pop up on the map on a completely random place?
Agloe was a copyright trap, a century old trick most mapmakers and dictionary makers use to catch copycats. Yes, people actually invent towns and put them on the map and even create words and put them in dictionaries. All in the effort of catching people who steal the work of others.
Mapmakers have to due a very rigorous job of examining correct spellings, of measuring the right distances between cities to size them to a proportional scale and all these efforts need to be protected, one way or the other. The next time you’ll be looking at a map, you’ll be a lot more skeptical. By the way, maps of cities usually have fake streets on them, as another preventive measure against intellectual property theft.
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Agloe is the fictional creation of Otto G. Lindberg, director of the General Drafting Co., and his assistant, Ernest Alpers. They created this road map of the state of New York. The name A-G-L-O-E comes from mixing their initials together and coming up with the most weird, but easy to pronounce name.
A few years after, a well-known map organization, Rand McNally issued its own New York state map and, guess what, the town of ‘Agloe’ was featured. Lindberg and Alpers issued a lawsuit against Rand McNally’s organization. However, being such a powerful company, the copycat mapmakers stated, through their lawyers, that the town of Agloe is real. They said that they were there to personally visit the town.
Randy McNally’s officials visited the town of Agloe and found a building named ‘Agloe General Store’, which was proven to be a real place. It was named after a map distributed by Esso, which also obtained the NY state map from Lindberg and Alpers.
‘Agloe General Store’ doesn’t exist anymore, but in a fascinating discovery, A-G-L-O-E appeared on Google Maps, until it was removed in 2014. However, the US Geological Survey unofficially added Agloe to the Geographic Names Information System. Although it suddenly vanished from Google maps a few years ago, the fake town and its general store are still visible on Google maps, right here.