In the mid-19th century, William Rand and Andrew McNally combined forces at a small printing shop in Chicago that turned into Rand McNally, one of the most successful creators of maps, navigation, road travel, and trip planning in American history. Rand McNally published its first map in 1872; it published its first road map, the New Automobile Road Map of New York City & Vicinity, in 1904.

A few years later, the company put out its "New Handy Map of New York City," showing subways, railroads, and a complete street system covering Manhattan, the South Bronx, and parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.

Rand McNally's New Handy Map Of New York City

The city map "demonstrates via a bright red line how 1908 marked a momentous year for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and its expansion of the NYC subway system," said Ian Fowler, Geospatial Librarian at the New York Public Library. "With the opening of the Joralemon Street Tunnel the subway traveled under the East River to connect Manhattan to Brooklyn for the first time."

Fowler also points out that was the year was "the system's new Northern terminus at Van Cortlandt Park–242nd Street opened, just beyond the no longer existent original path of the Harlem River. Rand McNally's map would only be handy for a few years though as the Duel Contracts would expand the map again in 1913."

Zoom in and check it out in detail right here.

As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking at New York City gems hidden away at the New York Public Library. The NYPL’s four research centers offer the public access to over 55 million items, including rare books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, and more. Integral to these robust collections is the Library’s extensive material related to New York City, and as NY works to come together, cope, heal and recover from the 2020 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the many issues that divide us, it is important to look at that history and remember: New York is resilient. New York is strong. New York has seen its share of hard times. And, as always, with Patience and Fortitude (the names given to the Library’s beloved lions in 1933 by Mayor LaGuardia for the virtues New Yorkers needed to get through the Great Depression) we will get through it, together.