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One of the Earliest Rand McNally Maps

Fine early map of teh Trans-Continental railroad route from Chicago to California along the Chicago Rock Island, Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads.

The outer part of the map also gives an out of scale depiction connections from Chicago to the East Coast and then by steamer to Europe as well as routes from San Francisco to Asia and Australia.

The map is projected as a panorama, with the topography shown pictorially and dozens of tiny vignettes depicting natural wonders and other landmarks of interest to travelers. Other vignettes contrast the ease and comfort of travel in 1876 with the hardships of just a quarter century earlier. One shows an Indian warrior, armed to the teeth and with drawn dagger, labeled "The Fellow that used to collect fare on the Overland Route in 1851." Another, "Sleeping accommodations on Overland Route in 1850," shows settlers sleeping on the ground beside their Conestoga wagon, rifles at the ready.

Above the map, a long travelogue highlighting major points of interest on the route, along with fare information, a timetable and other information of use to would-be travelers. The verso bears ads for The Grand Pacific Hotel and the Commercial Hotel, both in Chicago.

The map is apparently quite rare. We note only a single example on the market in the past 30 years.

Rand McNally & Company Biography

Rand McNally & Co. is a large American map and navigation company best known for its annual atlases. The company got its start in 1856, when William Rand opened a print shop in Chicago. He was joined in 1858 by a new employee, Andrew McNally. Together, the men established their namesake company in 1868. Originally, the company was intended to print the tickets and timetables for the trains running to and through Chicago; their first railway guide was published in 1869.

By 1870, they had shifted from just printing to publishing directories, travel guides, and newspapers. Their first map appeared in 1872 in a railway guide. The map was produced using a new wax engraving method, a cheaper process that gave the company an edge.

By 1880 Rand McNally had entered the education market with globes, wall maps, and geography texts for students. In 1923, Rand McNally published the first Goode’s World Atlas, named after its editor, Dr. J. Paul Goode. For generations afterward, this would be the standard classroom atlas.

In 1899, William Rand left the company, but McNally and his family remained, controlling the company for over a century. In 1904, they published their first road map intended for automobiles and by 1907 were publishing Photo-Auto Guides, which combined photography and mapping to help drivers. In 1924, they produced the Auto Chum, a precursor to their famous road atlases. Rand McNally would remain the leader in road maps and atlases throughout the twentieth century.

In 1937, Rand McNally opened its first store in New York City. Ever on the frontier of technology, Rand McNally pioneered the scribing process for printing tickets in 1958 and printed their first full-color road atlas in 1960. Arthur Robinson developed his now-famous projection of Rand McNally in 1969. By the 1980s, the company was exploring digital reproduction and digital databases of maps for truckers. In the 1990s, they lead the charge to develop trip-planning software and websites. Today, most of its products are available online or in a digital format, including maps for tablets and phones.