How Do You Know Where You Are?

The prototypical traveling salesman carried among other necessaries a Thomas Brothers Street Guide for the area he (in those days, usually a he) was working. A Thomas Guide was usually within easy reach on the front seat of the car. The guides, with their foldout maps and street indexes were especially popular in California and other western states. Businesses, government agencies, law enforcement and emergency responders used Thomas maps, including the company’s large wall maps.

Cartographer George Coupland Thomas and his two brothers founded the company in 1915. Early maps were detailed block grids with bird’s-eye three-dimensional drawings of major buildings. As the business expanded, the Thomas Company moved its headquarters from Oakland to Los Angeles.

George Thomas died in 1955. The family’s lawyer, and brother of a former Oakland mayor, purchased the company. Business continued to grow and in 1970 the company moved into a shiny new building in Irvine, south of L.A.

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