The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-26-2012, 02:29 PM
margorothspiegelman margorothspiegelman is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Paper towns?

Do paper towns truly exist? Is there a list that can be found of said towns?
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 02:41 PM
FatBaldGuy FatBaldGuy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2001
What do you mean by paper towns? I understand that some map makers put some fictitious towns on their maps as a trap for competitors who would copy their work. Is this what you're referring to?
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 02:51 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 70,933
Do you mean towns constructed of paper, or towns that exist only on paper, or towns where the major industry is manufacturing of paper? Because I'm pretty sure all three exist, but they're completely different things.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 03:00 PM
PacifistPorcupine PacifistPorcupine is offline
Join Date: Jun 2011
Maybe he means towns that map manufacturers build out of paper in the real world, with the hopes of having the competitors put them in their maps. And they put a big paper paper mill in them.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 03:16 PM
SubaRhubarb SubaRhubarb is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Are you trying to advertise that book?

This is the first time Margo calls their town a “paper town”, describing it as “fake” and“not even hard enough to be made of plastic”.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 03:17 PM
fiddlesticks fiddlesticks is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Alamo City
Posts: 4,443
I grew up in a paper town, but most of the paper mills left town.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 03:26 PM
phreesh phreesh is online now
Join Date: Nov 2000
Sounds like a Dunder Mifflin competitor.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 03:30 PM
SubaRhubarb SubaRhubarb is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
missed edit window

From the wiki :
"The title, which refers to unbuilt subdivisions and 'copyright trap' towns that appears on maps but don't exist, unintentionally underscores the novel's weakness..."

Meant to have that in first post.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 03:59 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 24,193
Originally Posted by SubaRhubarb View Post
Are you trying to advertise that book?
I had no idea what you were talking about until I Googled the OP's name, which is apparently the name of a character in a recent children's book called Paper Towns.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 04:54 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 24,193
Also, the Straight Dope column on paper towns, or copyright traps, also the Wikipedia article.
Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2012, 11:30 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
Chicago Savant
Join Date: Jan 2009
Paper towns certainly did exist as 19th century boosters fanned across the Midwest and Southwest, platting a city at virtually every river ford or stream mouth. These schemes failed as neither purchasers of the town lots nor the hoped-for city ever materialized. Most of the plats were vacated, but there was no real reason to, so there are probably dozens of farms and ranches around the country that have forgotten townsites platted across them. But the townsites, duly platted, appeared on official maps for decades and were repeated on other maps by far-away compilers with no knowledge of the territory.

After World War II, thousands of "ranchettes" or building lots were sold in places such as Lehigh Acres, Florida, Rio Rancho, New Mexico, or California City, California, and in huge subdivisions in Taos and Luna Counties, New Mexico, and various other places. Streets were graded but never paved, and utilities were never put in. Today these "antiquated subdivisions" are easy to spot from the air, but have only a scattering of residents among all the absentee owners still sending in their $2 annual property taxes, or those who've actually visited their property and let it go.

"Paper streets," rights of way that were dedicated but never built, are found in almost every town in the country. They used to be a huge problem for mapmakers like myself, but are now easier to spot and eliminate from maps.

Finally, there are "trap streets," deliberately placed by mapmakers to spot copyright violations. These were never as prevalent as the general public believes, and since 1991 (the Feist decision) they have been of no legal use whatever. Virtually all map mistakes are just that: mistakes. Commercial map publishing is a low-margin business, and there is, unfortunately, no real market value to greater accuracy.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:42 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright © 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.