Rand, McNally & Company’s Birds-eye Views and Guide to Chicago, timed to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, marks a high point in Chicago’s abundant guidebook literature. Since their emergence in the mid-nineteenth century handy, mass-produced volumes like this one have served most obviously as wayfinding tools, helping tourists, business travelers, people looking for a new place to settle, and others navigate unfamiliar territories. They provide details about the location of popular destinations, advice on how to get around, and information about where visitors can find nearby lodging, food, and other necessities. Publications in this genre also helped readers understand the geography, history, and culture of particular places, often including essays on these more general topics. At the same time, such guidebooks served then as now as powerful tools of place promotion, publicizing the specific sites listed, as well as the larger city, country or region covered by the book. They frequently blurred the line between editorial content and advertising, as the owners of hotels, restaurants and transportation lines, often paid the publisher to be featured.
The images in Birds-eye Views and Guide to Chicago made it especially distinctive. Each drawing concentrates on a few city blocks--most often portrayed at an angle from above. The drawings in Rand, McNally & Company’s Birds-eye Views and Guide to Chicago specifically celebrated the rebuilding after the 1871 fire, and most especially its embrace of the skyscraper. The buildings included on page 55 range from modestly-scaled commercial structures, such as the 6-story Clifton Hotel (#6) to the towering 10-story Chicago Athletic Association building (#9). Readers could find specific building visually by matching the illustration to the actual structure on the street rather than relying on addresses.
Dillon, Diane. “Consuming Maps.” In Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, ed. James Akerman and Robert Karrow. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Gassan, Richard. "The First American Tourist Guidebooks: Authorship and Print Culture of the 1820s." Book History 8 (2005): pp. 51-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30227372
Gold, John Robert, and Stephen V. Ward, eds. Place Promotion: The Use of Publicity and Marketing to Sell Towns and Regions. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994
Peters, Cynthia. “Rand McNally and Company--Printers, Publishers, Cartographers: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Mass Marketing.” MA thesis, The University of Chicago, 1981.
Ward, Stephen V. Selling Places: The Marketing and Promotion of Towns and Cities, 1850–2000. New York: Routledge, 1998.
“Adams Street Looking North,” from Rand, McNally & Co.’s Bird-Eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago; New York: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893), p. 55. The Newberry Library, Case F548.5 .R33 1893