It's easy in a day and age when most everything is geared toward convenience that we don't really think about the beginnings of those conveniences. I thought I'd talk about one of those things we take for granted. Road signs and maps.
One would think that road signs were a fairly modern thing. At the oldest perhaps the 19th century. After all we've all seen those old wood poles with about 10 arrows nailed on them and a city written on each arrow.
By Júlio Reis - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=934562
But road markers are much older than that. Let's go back to ancient Rome. The ancients Romans who are so famous for their aqueducts and bath houses among a few of their architectural feats were the some of the first in the western world to make road markers which they called milestones. They used tall columns to communicate information to people as they traveled down the road. The milestones would indicate how far they were from Rome and it also gave them information on directions to the city.
|William Rand and Andrew McNally
Public Domain Wiki
Now lets jump forward to the 19th century and William Rand who started working for the Chicago Tribune in 1859. Shortly after he took in an Irishman named Andrew McNally to help me for a weekly pay of $9 which was a pretty good amount of money for the time. By 1868 the two men had done so well they bought out the Tribune's contracts and went out on their own to start their own business.
Trains were covering the country bringing people and supplies from coast to coast and Rand and McNally saw a good opportunity. They turned their attention to the needs of the ever growing railway. They printed tickets as well as the timetables needed for the railway. Within two years they were doing railroad guides, business directories, and a newspaper.
The 1871 great fire of Chicago nearly put the two men out of business, but the quick thinking of Rand saved their business. He managed to save two of the ticket printing machines. The two men took the machines to McNally's home where they buried them in the sand on Lake Michigan in hopes to protect them from not only the fire but also the heat and debris. Three days later the men were back in business at a rented office.
|After the Chicago Fire
Rand sold his interest in 1899 and in 1905 McNally died. The business passed to his son. But the world was quickly changing and automobiles were becoming more and more popular making a need for a better signage. A group of car owners met at the Waldorf Astor Hotel in New York City and formed a car club. Other car clubs around the country formed. Suddenly there was a need for signs on major roadways.
All these car clubs put up their own signs, so in some places there were a dozen signs telling people the same thing. The popularity of the car clubs also brought the need for road maps but imagine trying to make a road map when 1 road may have twelve names. Yikes! Talk about confusing.
The Department of Transportation wanted more standardized signs to make traveling less confusing. Rand McNally, on a map of Peoria Illinois debuts a new highway sign system. That system became the model for the system that was used all over the United States. Rand McNally once again saw a need that moved beyond the map industry. In 1924 the company publishes the Rand McNally Auto Chum which is the first edition of what will become the Rand McNally Road Atlas.
A few more interesting tidbits.
The first electric traffic signal was in 1914 in Cleveland.
The first stop sign was put up in 1915 in Detroit.
In 1918 the first state to put up the official route signs was Wisconsin.
In 1920 Detroit put up the first three-colored traffic signal.
I'm giving away a copy of choice of one of Shattered Memories or my medieval, Sword of Forgiveness. Tell me a fun story about you and maps, signs, or roads or something about the post for a chance to win. Don't forget to leave your email address. Share on FB or Twitter for an extra entry.
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Debbie Lynne has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children’s director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, She and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses. Visit Debbie Lynne at www.debbielynnecostello.com