America’s first road atlas was published today in 1924 by Rand McNally. Now WE know em


William H. Rand was born May 2, 1828 in Quincy, Massachusetts.

As a young man, Rand apprenticed at his brother’s print shop in Boston.

The California Gold Rush enticed young Rand west in September of 1849.

He settled in Los Angeles and co-founded the state’s first newspaper, the Los Angeles Star.

Rand unfortunately found no fortune as he returned to Boston.

A short time later, Rand decided to move to Chicago and opened a print shop in June of 1856.

Then, in 1858, Rand hired an Irish immigrant, Andrew McNally, to work in his print shop for the wage of $9 per week.

Rand’s print shop did business with the Chicago Tribune and by 1859, Rand was responsible for the entire printing operation of the Tribune’s newspaper.

Rand McNally & Co.

In 1868, the two men formally established Rand McNally & Company.

The company initially focused on printing tickets and timetables for Chicago’s booming railroad industry.

By 1869, Rand McNally began publishing complete railroad guides.

Then in 1870, the company expanded into printing business directories and the “People’s Weekly,” an illustrated newspaper.

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Rand McNally responded by quickly publishing again only a few days later.


Rand McNally Maps

The very first Rand McNally map, created using a new cost-saving wax engraving method, appeared in the December 1872 edition of its Railroad Guide.

Rand McNally incorporated their business in 1873, with Rand as its president and McNally as vice president.


The Business Atlas, containing maps and data pertinent to business planning, was first published by Rand McNally in 1876. This atlas is still updated today, now titled the Commercial Atlas & Marketing Guide.

Rand McNally established its Trade Book department in 1877, publishing such titles as The Locust Plague in the United States.

Rand McNally began publishing educational maps in 1880 with its first line of maps, globes, and geography textbooks, soon followed by a world atlas.

The company began publishing general literature in 1884 with its first title, The Secret of Success, and the Textbook department was established in 1894 with The Rand McNally Primary School Geography.

Also in 1894, the company opened an office in New York City headed by Caleb S. Hammond, who later started his own map company, C. S. Hammond & Co..

Rand McNally’s first road map, the New Automobile Road Map of New York City & Vicinity, was published in 1904.

In 1910, the company acquired the line of Photo-Auto Guides from G.S. Chapin, which provided photographs of routes and intersections with directions.

Andrew McNally II (son of Frederick McNally) personally took photos on his honeymoon for the Chicago-to-Milwaukee edition.

William Rand retired as president of Rand McNally in 1899 and returned to his boyhood home of East Milton, Massachusetts. He died at his daughters home in New Canaan, Connecticut June 20, 1915 after being ill for some time.

The company continued to expand its book publishing business, with best-selling children’s books such as The Real Mother Goose (1916).

Road Atlas

Rand McNally was the first major map publisher to embrace a system of numbered highways.

One of their cartographers, John Brink, invented a system that was first published in 1917 on a map of Peoria, Illinois.

In addition to creating maps with numbered roads, Rand McNally also erected many of the actual roadside highway signs.

This system was subsequently adopted by state and federal highway authorities.

The oil industry quickly developed an interest in road maps, enticing Americans to explore and consume more gasoline.

In 1920, Rand McNally began publishing road maps for the Gulf Oil Company, to be freely distributed at its service stations.

Then on April 15, 1924, The Rand McNally Auto Chum, later to become the ubiquitous Rand McNally Road Atlas, was first published.

The first full-color edition was published in 1960.

Rand McNally & Company has become one of the best-known map publishers in history.

When William Rand retired in 1899, he sold his shares in the company to Andrew McNally and other company officers. The McNally family was the majority owner for nearly 100 years, from 1899 until 1997, at which time the McNally family decided to divest its majority stake.

Now WE know em


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