"The Board's archives contain no indication of the reason for this policy," according to Frequently Asked Question No. 18 on its Web site. "Myths attempting to explain the policy include the idea that the apostrophe looks too much like a rock in water when printed on a map, and is therefore a hazard." Early cartographers didn't need the typographical hassle; neither did early boaters.
President Benjamin Harrison established the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 1890 to settle contradictions and inconsistencies of geographic names in the Western territories after the Civil War. In 1911, the board made national news by restoring the "h" to Pittsburgh. The board has also validated the name-splitting "Glen Burnie" and "Bel Air." Working with federal and state agencies, the Reston, Va.-based board continues to make binding decisions as the "central authority" for name problems and changes.