After arriving in Chicago, Marquis continues to operate his publishing company, A.N. Marquis and Company and becomes a newspaperman. He is fascinated by Chicago’s resurgence as it begins rising from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and establishes itself as the industrial and trade capital of the Midwest. Marquis wants to know more about the manufacturers and titans of industry who are rapidly building factories and the first skyscrapers; however, he is frustrated by a lack of accessible biographical information about the individuals behind these development efforts.
With that in mind, he sets out to create his own biographical directory, one that will document American meritocracy in a manner never before accomplished. The first edition of Who’s Who in America is published in June 1899, containing the biographies of 8,602 individuals. Their achievements and contributions become the subject of widespread interest and inquiry, securing Marquis’ reputation as the premier publisher of biographical reference material.