History of Rand McNally Business & Commercial Maps
Rand McNally & Company, still a major name in map publishing to this day, began as a small print shop opened in Chicago in 1856 by William H. Rand. The shop originally printed guidebooks and directories. In 1858, Rand hired Andrew McNally who was later to become a partner. Within the next few years, the shop got into the railroad business by starting to print railway tickets and schedules, a key step in the development of the company. The ticket printing led to the publishing of railway guides, and by 1872 Rand McNally and Company had the capacity to publish maps.
What made Rand McNally unique at the time, and gave them an important advantage in the map publishing business, was that instead of using steel or copper engraving techniques, they adopted a wax engraving method called relief line engraving. The use of wax engraving meant that plates could be created very quickly and changed easily; necessary factors at that time of rapid railroad growth and westward expansion. The wax engraving method also allowed for the use of very small lettering, which was useful when many stops and stations along a route needed to be marked.
Rand McNally & Company was quick to realize the potential in the map market, and the company expanded rapidly. The first map to really distinguish the company was Rand McNally & Co’s New Railroad and County Map of the United States and Canada, published in 1876. This map formed the basis of numerous further publications, since it could be broken down to show different states or regions. It became their Business Atlas, and also a successful series of pocket maps. Published until 1910, the Business Atlas then became the Commercial Atlas of America until 1937, and was published thereafter as Rand McNally’s Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide.