Mark Monmonier


My Current Projects
Continues the Patents Project by examining the life and impact of the inventor of the Clock System map and rural directory.
“What if I told you that behind every great map is a network and behind every great network is a map?”
Fully updated for the digital age, which offers new opportunities for cartographic mischief, deception, and propaganda
“Thoroughly researched, well written, and richly illustrated with original patent drawings.” – Judith Tyner
“a milestone in the historical study of twentieth-century cartography” – Journal of Historical Geography
“His irrepressible wit shines . . .” – Imago Mundi
“unexpectedly engrossing . . . overcomes all Weather Channel wonkery as a charmingly executed slice of Americana.” – Publishers Weekly
“Well written, engaging, mildly provocative, quirky at times.” – H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences
“An informative and entertaining read on climate change via the science of cartography.” – Weatherwise
“Engaging . . . a trove of giggle-inducing lore.” – Publishers Weekly
“A rewarding study of mapmaking and the uses of maps.” – Scientific American
“Engaging, even-handed introduction to the dark side of mapping technology.” – Physical Science Digest
“An artful and a funny book, which like any good map packs plenty in a little space.” – Scientific American
“Clever title, rewarding book.” – Scientific American
How maps help people avoid and officials plan for disasters.
Encyclopedia Entry
Article in The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology (2017).
Scholarly Screeds
Published on (11 January 2016) and (13 January 2016), DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3332.7126.
Published on and, 17 January 2016, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1235.5605.
Glimpse: the art + science of seeing, no. 8 (Autumn 2011): 14-21.
Weiner Schriften zur Geographie und Kartographie [Institut für Geographie und Regionalforschung der Universität Wien], 2004

From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame

Brassiere Hills, Alaska. Mollys Nipple, Utah. Outhouse Draw, Nevada. In the early twentieth century, it was common for towns and geographical features to have salacious, bawdy, and even derogatory names. In the age before political correctness, mapmakers readily accepted any local preference for place names, prizing accurate representation over standards of decorum. Thus, summits such as Squaw Tit—which towered above valleys in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California—found their way into the cartographic annals. Later, when sanctions prohibited local use of racially, ethnically, and scatalogically offensive toponyms, town names like Jap Valley, California, were erased from the national and cultural map forever.

toponym [tow-puh-nym]: n. –s, name of a place or geographical feature. Look below for some examples of pejorative toponyms on government maps.

Excerpt from the Coudersport, PA, 15-minute USGS quadrangle map (1938)

Excerpt from the Sunnyside, AZ, 7.5-minute USGS quadrangle map (1982)

Excerpt from the Greenhorn Mountain, MT 7.5-minute USGS quadrangle map (1989)

Excerpt from the Commodore, PA 7.5-minute USGS quadrangle map (1993)

Excerpt from the "Juneau B-1, Alaska" 1:63,360-scale USGS quadrangle map (1997)

READ an interview with Colette Labouff Atkinson, published in

More Kind Words

“To say that FSTTWM is well researched would give new meaning to “understatement.” . . . While most topographers will be familiar with the basic facts of the cases Monmonier presents, merely knowing the facts is to miss Monmonier’s more insightful argument, namely that placenames are far more than simple markers of location; they are social constructions which create, define and validate the particular reality desired by the namers. . . . Monmonier is a master stylist and a first-rate interpreter of toponymy whose arguments are presented in minute detail and rich in anecdote.”—Edward Callary, in Names: A Journal of Onomastics

“Monmonier writes with a style that is assured without being overwrought, and even when dealing with bureaucratic details the book retains its readability. . . . From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow is a useful book that belongs on the shelf of anyone with an interest in cartographic issues. It is also a pleasant Sunday read, so long as you don’t read it in church with its prominently-titled dust cover.”—Lindsay Braun, in Technology and Culture

“Monmonier carefully simplifies the bureaucratic jargon and processes to craft a study both accessible and entertaining to scholars and the general public alike. His work is a compelling analysis of how cultures claim the spaces they occupy.”—Anthony J. Stanonis, in Canadian Journal of History

“Compelling, thought provoking and always informative, Monmonier’s From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow is an essential guide to toponymy’s most dangerous regions.”—Robert Julyan, in Imago Mundi

Now in paperback, from Chicago, Fall 2007

LISTEN to the WBUR "Here and Now" interview, July 6, 2006.

“An engaging treatise on the politics of place names . . . A trove of giggle-inducing lore.”—Publisher's Weekly

“Reveals in a nontechnical manner the impact of governmental policy and political correctness upon modern cartography. . . . An amusing, informative, and topical study of the contentious issue of place names.”—Library Journal

“An entertaining and enlightening excursion.”—Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

“Mark Monmonier has done it again! By combining meticulous research with crystal-clear exposition, America’s foremost geographic interpreter takes us on a riveting excursion across maps displaying legacies of racism, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, and other cultural and political offenses. In this brilliant and readable exposition, Monmonier ranges from hilltops in Arizona to orchards in Israel, proving forcefully that maps have consequences. This is an entertaining and indispensable resource for anyone who has wondered how certain names got on the map and why some of them are still there.”—Harm de Blij, author of Why Geography Matters

"Not a travel book per se but fascinating nonetheless." —Chicago Tribune online edition, "The Resourceful Traveler"

“An enticing practical narrative lies buried in these pages: a civil activist’s handbook on how to change the toponyms around you.”—Lawrence Norfolk, Daily Telegraph (London)

“This fascinating book . . . provides a full history of how names appeared on American maps.”—Susan Gole, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The author is an able populariser of academic geography, and an expert guide to the bureaucratic, legal and political hierarchies that determine how places acquire, change and lose their names. . . . The author is clearly blessed with a good sense of humor . . .” —The Economist

“Demonstrates a thorough understanding of the dangers that lurk in mapmaking.”—Mick Herron, in Geographical

“An informative and sometimes impressive read, and, while the title conceals as much as it exposes, the book is a page-turner.”—Philip Goldring, in Cartographica

“Can be revisited and enjoyed for many years, and would therefore make [an] excellent gift.”—Jeff Bursey, in Books in Canada

“A provocative stepping stone into the issue of identity and place.”—Leslie McLees, in Information Bulletin [Western Association of Map Libraries]

“I can’t recommend it enough. . . . and Monmonier’s writing is as engaging as ever.”—Jonathan Crowe, The Map Room

“A book that is both engaging and filled with humor.”—Richard J. Cox, Reading Archives