Thomas Guides

Written by Robert Mac
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Thomas Guides have been an essential driving tool since 1915, when George, Gilbert, and Leonard Thomas created a unique mapping system in Oakland, California. This page & grid technique is ingenious: a grid is overlaid on a map, creating a number of sectors. Each of these sectors is identified with a page number. Turn to that page in a map book to find a highly detailed map of that area.

Thomas map books did more than make folding maps obsolete. Since these guides contain more pages than a regular map, each page can afford to be more detailed--that means more streets, more landmarks, more points of interest. The larger scale of the Thomas Guide makes identifying addresses, buildings, and other objects easier, as everything is clearly labeled.

Find Anything Easily with Thomas Guides Maps

These guides are popular with drivers, real estate agents, government agencies, and other field personnel because the page & grid system makes finding locations a breeze. Starting with an area map and then moving to a detailed map is the simplest way to zoom into specific neighborhoods. Plus, these guides are updated annually from a digital database: their comprehensive street indexes are always current and are an easy way to find a specific address.

Thomas Guides' thoroughness is another reason they are beloved by their owners, especially in their home state of California. The Golden State can be a driver's nightmare, but Thomas Guides come to the rescue. Maps with freeway access locations clearly marked--there are hundreds of on- and off-ramps in Los Angeles alone--make these guides indispensable for anyone wanting to tackle the freeway system of California.

The History of Thomas Guides

Cartographer George Thomas, who wanted an easier way to map cities and other larger geographic areas, developed the first Thomas Guide with his brothers nearly a century ago. In the convenient form of a book--rather than a clumsy folding map--the Thomas Guide became the street reference on the west coast and has since spread. In the 1980s, Thomas began digitizing their maps and accumulation of data into a nationwide database.

This computer database has allowed Thomas to maintain years of research and update it annually with ease. In the process of converting manually produced maps to computer-aided ones, they have created a national grid system, making their maps both standardized on a national scale and highly detailed. With this digital information at their fingertips, Thomas Guides can produce accurate custom maps along with their guides.

Thomas Guides: Paper or Plastic?

There are more than 75 current editions of Thomas Guides in print, but you don't have to carry all these thick books around. Thomas Guides are also available on a thin plastic disk--the CD-ROM version is called Digital Edition and matches the printed version page by page. Plus, the digital version of the guide allows you to take advantage of the digital format: you can easily copy, edit, and send maps electronically from your computer.

Thomas Guides and its parent company, Rand McNally, also have a number of other cartographic products with the same quality and detail as a Thomas Guide. Laminated wall maps of individual states or regions are attractive, long lasting, informative, and easy to display. Street guides, folding maps, reference books, road atlases, and children's products are also available and will make your travels more informed and more enjoyable.

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