The Federal Writers’ Project–American Guide Series

Federal Writers’ Project

One of many projects undertaken by the WPA, created in 1935, was the Federal Writers’ Project.

The American Guide Series was a subset of works produced by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) and and is one of the most well-known FWP projects.  The American Guide Series Books, created through a cooperative effort of both Federal and State organizations, are part travel guide, part almanac. Each includes illustrations and photographs and offers a fascinating snapshot of the 48 United States in the Union, and Alaska, in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Additionally there are guides covering some of the major cities and some smaller ones, and a selection that focuses on inter-state adventures.

According to Wikipedia, the series of books were printed by individual states, and contained detailed histories of each of the then 48 states of the Union with descriptions of every major city and town. The project employed over 6,000 writers.


The WPA Guide to 1930s Iowa has been reprinted, and is available through Amazon. It’s not cheap but since I’ve been writing about that era, it’s been a great resource and is fun to read. It’s arranged by tours, with information to learn about each town on your trip.

Wikipedia lists which states and cities had books written about them in the 1930s for the Federal Writers’ Project. Several of them have been reprinted and are available through Amazon.


  1. Not the most famous to this person!!!! I never heard of these! Sooo cool. Thanks for telling us about such a wonderful part of the 30s recovery.

  2. Way cool! I’m going to check these out. The Wikipedia link you cite mentions Steinbeck’s quote from Travels with Charley. I’ve read the book but didn’t recall the quote.

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