Book Talk: Mark Monmonier’s Clock and Compass: How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address

Map Unavailable

Date(s) - 10/08/2022
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

CAP ArtSpace


#Book Lecture: Clock & Compass w/ Mark Monmonier

1 Hour

WHEN: Saturday October 8th – 1-2pm

WHERE: CAP ArtSpace in the Tompkins Center for History & Culture on the Ithaca Commons – 110 North Tioga St. Ithaca NY 14850.

PRESENTERS: Mark Monmonier

Join The History Center in Tompkins County for a talk by Mark Monmonier on his latest book, Clock and Compass: How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address. Copies of the book are available for sale in advance from The History Center’s online Bookshop or at our Exhibit Hall. They will also be available for sale and signing at the event.

“A North American inventor and map publisher, John Byron Plato contributed to wayfinding in the early decades of the twentieth century, when the automobile and an emerging network of improved roads were opening the countryside as never before. Automobility exposed a void in the cartographic treatment of rural areas—road signs were scarce and house-numbering did not extend beyond the built-up parts of cities and towns.

“Plato learned that an RFD (Rural Free Delivery) address was inadequate for wayfinding without the personal guidance of a letter carrier or an annotated copy of the official map of delivery routes. After applying for a government patent, he traveled to Washington to persuade the Post Office Department to adopt his system, but postal officials refused to assume the added cost of helping travelers reach their destination. Even so, they bestowed the name ‘Clock System’ on Plato’s endeavor.
“Plato based his business in Ithaca, New York, where he published rural directories for fifteen counties and several individual towns between 1919 and 1929. Most town-level maps were published early on for portions of Tompkins County, soon covered by a single county-wide rural directory. Plato’s link to Ithaca reaches back to 1896, when he attended Cornell’s ‘Winter Short Course’ for farm youth—a puzzling choice because he was born in Chicago, raised in Denver, and had never lived on a farm.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Monmonier, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography and the Environment at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Monmonier has written extensively on the use of maps for surveillance and as analytical and persuasive tools in environmental science, journalism, politics, and public administration. He is the author of 20 books including How to Lie With Maps and the first general textbook on computer assisted cartography.

This event is brought to you by HistoryForge (, a dynamic web environment that allows people to explore their local history through the individuals who lived there and the buildings and neighborhoods they lived in. HistoryForge is an open-source platform developed by The History Center in Tompkins County.

##Land acknowledgement
This event will take place in the traditional and contemporary lands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ’ Nation (often known by the mispronunciation Cayuga), one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Learn more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.