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Puerto Rico, American Guide Series volume, 1940

Each American Guide to a state or territory, such as this one for Puerto Rico, covered the region’s history, geography, economy and culture. The books included maps, drawings, photographs and tour itineraries. The goal of the project was not just to employ writers, but also to stimulate local economies by encouraging tourism.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Puerto Rico, American Guide Series volume, 1940

The Federal Writers' Project

Congress created the Federal Writers’ Project in 1935 under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency that employed millions of Americans on public-works projects during the Great Depression. Active until 1943, the Federal Writers’ Project enlisted more than 6,000 writers, historians, and other scholars in producing useful publications. Its American Guide series highlighted historical, cultural and geographical features of U.S. states, territories and cities. The Federal Writers’ Project also compiled oral histories that, like the American Guides, remain valuable resources for studying the nation’s past.