Agloe: The Fake Town That Became Real

This is the curious tale of Agloe, a small town that went from being imaginary hamlet, to a real life town, and then swiftly vanished again. Copyright infringements were a very common among map makers, so publishers often included ‘paper towns’. Map makers included these fictitious towns to easily tell if their work had been plagiarised. If they suspected anything they could simply see if their fictitious town appeared on their competitors map, and then they had grounds for a law suit.

In the 1930’s map makers Otto G. Lindberg and , Ernest Alpers of General Drafting Co. published a detailed road map of New York State. On a nondescript dirt road, just outside Roscoe they included a paper town which they named Agloe, a combination of their names.

A few years passed, then a major competing cartographer, Rand McNally, published a road map of New York State. Lindberg and Alerpers were ecstatic. A blatant case of plagiarism which they could prove. Their lawyers contacted Rand McNally’s lawyers and court proceedings were set in motion. Rand McNally’s lawyers came back with proof that their surveyors had indeed been to Agloe and visited the Agloe general store and so it had been deemed a real place.

Algoe Sign

Further investigation revealed that the owner of the store had purchased a map published by Esso which clearly marked Agloe. He took this as authority that the name of the town was Agloe and subsequently named the Agloe General Store.

The town no longer exists, and with it the legacy of Agloe. All that remains is a sign welcoming visitors to the general store. Despite this Agloe appeared on Google Maps until 2013 when google cottoned on to it’s nonexistence.

While all that exists now is a sign, there is still an Agloe appreciation blog, although it doesn’t get updated very often.


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