So what happened to Thomas Brothers, anyway?
I just wrote a post that talked about job hunting circa 1994. Because it was 1994, job hunting involved the use of a Thomas Brothers guide.
For those who didn’t know who the Thomas brothers were, I helpfully provided a link to an LAist article from 2018 entitled “Thomas Guide Maps: The Rise And Fall of LA’s Directional Holy Grail.”
As the article notes, Thomas Brothers books, with their grid representations of streets in southern California, were a necessity here in the late 20th century. Toward the end of the century, you could go to your local Costco and see stacks upon stacks of books for San Bernardino/Riverside Counties, Los Angeles/Orange Counties, and other combinations. If you wanted to go somewhere, such as a job interview in another city, out came the Thomas Brothers guide.
Or, in the 1990s, the Thomas Brothers CD. As technology advanced, Thomas Brothers advanced with it, and provided its maps on compact discs that you could insert into your desktop computer – or even into your laptop computer!
But despite its technology advances, Thomas Brothers couldn’t advance fast enough. Companies were coming up with in-dash car navigation systems that would show maps on a screen in the car, and services such as Mapquest were displaying maps on your computer even if you didn’t have the appropriate CD.
So in 1998, Thomas Brothers sold itself to Rand McNally. It sounded like a winning move, provided the small local company with the big resources of map giant Rand McNally.
But it didn’t work out that way. According to Wikipedia, Rand McNally followed the innovation curve of other companies and outsourced cartography duties to Bangalore, India. Map data itself is acquired from outside companies such as Here (formerly Navteq). By 2009, the Thomas Brother office in Irvine was closed completely.
But you can still get Thomas Maps – from a guy named Larry Thomas (no known relation to George Coupland Thomas or his brothers) who distributes maps from Rand McNally and other firms. For example, Larry offers the LOS ANGELES/ORANGE THOMAS GUIDE 55TH EDITION 2019. And he also offers (for almost $58) the SAN BERNARDINO CUSTOM MAP BOOK ONLY 2017, but with this important caveat:
This is not a Thomas Brothers product they no longer make the Riverside and San Bernardino Thomas guides. This a new San Bernardino and Victorville, Barstow, and all of San Bernardino county