In 1858 William H. Rand, a native of Boston, established a printing office in Chicago and employed as a printer Andrew McNally. By 1868 Rand and McNally formed a partnership which soon acquired a reputation for printing railroad publications.
In 1871 they introduced the Rand, McNally Railway Guide. That same year their business was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.
Rand and McNally opened their new map department in late 1872. In January 1873 it was announced that "the house of Rand, McNally & Co. beg leave to inform their railroad friends and the patrons of the Railway Guide generally, that they have lately made extensive additions to their engraving department, and are now prepared to execute maps using relief-plate engraving [i.e., wax engraving] in the very highest style of the art."
With the adoption of the wax engraving process, followed in May 1873 by the employment of a color printing process, the company's reputation as one of the world's leading commercial mapmakers was established.
A major accomplishment of Rand, McNally was the publication in 1876 of the "New Railroad and County Map of the United States and Canada. Compiled from Latest Government Surveys, and Drawn to an Accurate Scale." That same year, the company used the plates from this map to produce its famous Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide, which was issued in its 129th edition in 1998. The Map and the Business Atlas, as it was then known, required the services of ten compilers and engravers for nearly two years and cost about $20,000.
This relief map of Colorado was included in Rand, McNally & Co.’s Business Atlas published in 1878-9. It shows cities, towns, waterways, and labeled railroad routes.