About the American Guide Series 

Probably the most widely known achievements of the Federal Writers' Project were the travel guides created for every state--the famous "American Guides" series.  John Steinbeck used the WPA state guides as he crossed the continent in the early 1960s and he later wrote Travels with Charley about his journey.

The WPA guide to Kansas was titled
Kansas, a guide to the Sunflower State when published in 1939.  In 1984, it was republished by The University Press of Kansas as The WPA Guide to 1930s Kansas.  After seven decades, its pages still provide a wealth of reliable historic, geographic, and cultural information on Kansas, as well as some intriguing lore that many modern-day readers will find "new."  It gives an accurate picture of Kansas between the Great Depression and World War II--of its industrial, agricultural, and natural resources.

The book is divided into three sections: seventeen topical essays covering subjects such as Indians, folklore, religion, and architecture; touring information of the eighteen largest Kansas cities and towns; and twelve automobile tours spanning Kansas and border states.  Included are eighty photographs, four maps, and an essay on the "contemporary scene" by William Allen White.

Ablah Library has copies of the 1984 reprint at F686 .K3 1984 in the circulating collection and a copy of the 1939 original in Special Collections.

WPA writers also compiled guides for many cities and for distinctive cultural regions in the U.S.  Among the more colorful regional titles are Gumbo Ya Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales, An Ornery Bunch: Tales and Anecdotes Collected by the WPA Montana Writers Project and Mister, You've Got Yourself a Horse by the Nebraska Writers' Projects.  Writers interviewed former slaves and recorded the life histories of citizens all across America.  A number of those interviews can be found today on the following sites from the American Memory sites of the Library of Congress:  

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938

If you have any questions concerning the series please Contact Us.


Kansas: A Guide to the Sunflower State

Courtesy of Library of Congress