THE FEDERAL WRITERS’ PROJECT AND THE AMERICAN GUIDE SERIES

The main goal of the Federal Writers’ Project was to compile tour guides to the 48 states and the territories of Alaska and Puerto Rico. Travel by automobile was expanding rapidly and the last travel guide to the United States was published by Baedeker in 1914. A team of national administrators and editors was set up in Washington, while each state was assigned a State Director. Teams of workers toured every corner of the state collecting information. The field worker, equipped with instructions and field reports forms, would travel from town to town interviewing and gathering information. The reports were written up and edited by the area and state editors before they were sent to Washington for the final editing and approval. Nothing was published that was not first approved by Washington and the entire process required that the author remain anonymous.

With the help of the American Guide Series, thousands of tourists who took to the highways discovered new and exciting places in the United States. The guides covered every major motor highway mile by mile with descriptions of cities, towns and villages, inland and coastal waterways, historic shrines, landmarks and recreation areas along the route. Moreover, the series offered full-length portraits of the country’s history, industry, geology, folklore, arts, architecture, and social currents and featured biographical information about eminent men and women. Each volume was illustrated with b & w photographs and included a calendar of annual events, a selective bibliography, comprehensive index, plus state, city and highway maps.