A Brief History of Rand McNally

Samuel John Klein’s Brief History of Rand McNally is up on Designorati today. Interesting to see that William Rand and Andrew McNally started with railroads (road travel was some decades away); their first map, in 1872, was the Railway Guide. Even more interesting was the following passage:

A problem that began to emerge was how to represent these routes, typically given awkwardly-long names, on maps. Company lore holds that, after an in-house contest, the idea of a drafter named John Brink was put into play, identifying intercity routes by keying them to symbols. A further refinement of the system introduced numbers instead of geometric symbols, and this, debuted with the publication of an 1917 map of Peoria, Illinois, is considered a seminal event enroute to the creation of the modern system of numbering US and Interstate highways of which every motoring American is acquainted.

Rand McNally invented the highway number? Via the excellent Cartography.