Thomas Guide card books publish 2022 editions for Los Angeles

For decades, a Thomas Guide has been a driver’s tool for survival in the ever-growing sprawl of Southern California’s freeways – as essential as a spare tire, at least until the circulation applications make paper books seemingly obsolete.

The young Angelenos may never have heard of them, but Guide Thomas lives on. The 2022 editions – the first in three years – are due out next week.

Guidebooks and fold-out maps were first published by three Thomas brothers in Oakland in 1915. Their first city map, Los Angeles, came out in 1946. San Francisco and other cities in California followed for a few years. later, and the operation expanded to cover regions across America and Canada.

The LA Central Library has the only known complete collection of rectangular guides connected to rings. Recently retired map librarian Glen Creason recalled how the library offered free photocopies of the Hollywood and downtown pages because they were so often torn off by cheap motorists (or perhaps lost).

Then came GPS and traffic apps.

Despite its huge database, the Thomas Guide has stumbled into the digital age, and owner Rand McNally has replaced mappers and cut costs. The guides seemed destined to be lost in nostalgia, but they did not disappear.

From his office outside of San Antonio, Larry Thomas, now majority owner of the Thomas Maps brand, said that at one point the Thomas Guide had seven or eight distributors in California alone and was printing also an edition in Spanish.

Only LA / Orange County and San Diego / Imperial Counties guides are still produced today, but Thomas expects good sales.

“Private car owners are only a very small part of our business now,” he said. “But California state law states that every police and fire department vehicle must have a Thomas guide on board. Fire routes are often not on GPS and ambulances cannot get lost because every second can save lives. They often also buy laminated copies because they are so damaged. ”

This represents 1,000 to 1,500 sales per year. As a distributor of Rand McNally and other brands of maps and atlases, Thomas also supplies custom maps with “extreme detail” for transit agencies, hospitals, animal control and more.

Thomas said he was “at the right time and in the right place” to start his career as a distributor about 30 years ago – and that his last name was a lucky factor.

“I had the blessing of the original owners, the Thomas brothers, who said my last name would not infringe their copyright,” he said, “so that I can legitimately tell me call Thomas Maps. “

The Angelenos are complaining that a problem with their traffic application has made them late. Could the Thomas Guide be ready for a vinyl-style revival?

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