In the 1880s there was a publishing house out of Chicago called Chapman Brothers. County by county, they published "Portrait and Biographical Album of....." in recognition of the valuable lives and work being done by the citizens who lived there. I've had no luck learning about anything else they published but they are responsible for a body of mid-west history to which genealogy researchers across the country are indebted.
This is an excerpt from the preface of their book on Osceola County, Michigan:
It was during my first genealogy pilgrimage that I learned the dampening truth: those citizens wrote their own bios and paid to be included in the book about their county. How much they paid is unknown to me and it would make sense that the Chapman Brothers, as a publishing company, wouldn't have a gaggle of staff writers taking dictation from farmers and local businessmen. But I was disheartened for a little while.
Many of the P&BA books are available to view online and download. Do a Google Books search for "Portrait and Biographical Album".