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The American Guide Series was one of the most popular publications of the Federal Writers’ Project, a depression era program of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employing over 10,000 writers, researchers, historians, and others. With a book devoted to each of the then 48 states, a typical book in the series featured photographs and essays about the resources, people, history, and economy of the individual state. The American Guide Series books also included travel routes and maps, often tucked into a pocket in the back of each book. The research and production for each individual guide often involved cooperative efforts between the state and federal governments, as well as municipal organizations. Like the Farm Security Administration photographs from the same era, these guides introduced America to many Americans who had never traveled outside of their states or regions.
Understandably, the state maps produced in the American Guide Series focused heavily on the major roadways. Some, like the map of Kansas [#31], highlight helpful locations for tourists, such as state parks and good spots for hunting, boating, and fishing. Similarly, on the back of the map of Delaware [#32] is a separate Delaware Recreation Map, showing locations for fishing, camping, boating, and golfing and complete with a list of fresh water fishing sights. Many of the maps, including those of Minnesota [#33] and Indiana [#34], mark points of interest with numbers that correspond to a legend on the margins of the map.
31. Federal Writer’s Project, Kansas from Kansas: A Guide to the Sunflower State, 1939
Fun Fact: Kansas is home to the world’s largest ball of twine.
32. Federal Writer’s Project, Delaware from Delaware: A Guide to the First State, 1938
Fun Fact: Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution.
33. Federal Writer’s Project, Minnesota from Minnesota: A State Guide, 1938
Fun Fact: Minnesota is home to the nation’s largest shopping mall.
34. Federal Writer’s Project, Indiana from Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State, 1945
Fun Fact: John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is bured in Fort Wayne, Indiana.