Rand McNally: The Lost Episode


On this date in 1924, Rand McNally published its first road atlas.

Here are some things you may not have known about the company that went on to become synonymous with road maps in the United States.

The company was formed in 1868, when William Rand and Andrew McNally purchased the printing business of the Chicago Tribune. Its first products were tickets and schedules for the Chicago railway industry. A year later, it introduced a complete railroad guide. Soon it was making business directories and an illustrated newspaper.

The first Rand-McNally map appeared in the December 1872 edition of its Railroad Guide. By 1880, the company was making maps, globes, geography textbooks and a world atlas. Its first road map, called “The New Automobile Road Map of New York City & Vicinity” was printed in 1904. In 1910, Rand McNally began making Photo-Auto Guides, which used photographs of routes and intersections for directions. In 1917, one of the company’s cartographers created a system of road numbering for a map of Peoria, Illinois. The company also put up route number signs along the roads. Many of these numbering conventions were adopted by federal and state highway authorities.

The road atlas, at first known as “The Rand McNally Auto Chum,” debuted in 1924. The first color version was published in 1960.

Our question: What year was the first map of the United States copyrighted?

Today is Universal Day of Culture and World Art Day.

It’s the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball and it’s usually the income tax-filing deadline in the United States. This year the deadline is April 18 because federal employees in the District of Columbia have the day off in observance of Emancipation Day, which is tomorrow.

It’s the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci, actress Elizabeth Montgomery, actress Emma Thompson and actress Emma Watson.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1966, the top song in the U.S. was “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” by The Righteous Brothers.

The No. 1 movie was “The Singing Nun,” while the novel “The Source” by James Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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