A South Dakota Guide.
Pierre, SD: State PublishingCompany, 1938.


Chapter Six: 

Vintage Snapshots from Alabama to Wyoming: Reflections of a Cultural Nation in State Profiles


Wordage, Poundage, Yardage: Inventing and Operating the American Baedeker Machine

Designing a Landscape of Words: Genre Negotiations, Composition Policies, and Stylistic Features of the Guides

Patchwork Quilt of These United States: The Rhetoric of Cultural Enthusiasm in Contemporary Reviews of the American Guides

Un-American Guides and Pink Baedekers: The Red Scare of the Federal Writers' Project

A Fabricated Nation: The Politics of Democratic National Portraiture

Vintage Snapshots from Alabama to Wyoming: Reflections of a Cultural Nation in State Profiles




Chapter six, "Vintage Snapshots from Alabama to Wyoming: Reflections of a Cultural Nation in State Profiles" rest at the core of this present research. Current studies of the American Guide Series struggle with the absence of critical investigations of the contents of the guides. Critics have in general been content to regard the FWP as an administrative experiment whose mechanics were worth studying as indicators of a specific climate of arts patronage in the 1930s. There has been no actual "reading" of the guides in the attempt to retrieve insights about their strategies of portraying and producing the nation in language. The American Guide Series is a very heterogeneous assortment of texts that documents the vast regional and ideological differences in the United States of the second half of the 1930s. Without a unifying thesis, the individual guides pursue their own agenda, which is very often the creation or rectification of the state's profile in front of the nation. Each volume harbors its own peculiar version of America, its own imagery and desire.

This chapter, therefore, provides a compendium to the individual state guides of the American Guide Series. There are currently no available resources for scholars who wish to learn about the contents and features of individual guides. Introductions to reprints of the WPA Guides are sometimes helpful but often offer little more than an updated version of their state portrait from a current travel perspective. This chapter is to be regarded in collaboration with all other chapters, since all themes discussed in the first part of this study resonate throughout these state descriptions. Each state profile attempt to give a brief critical account of the volume's argument (if there is one), tone, and thematic narrative. I have included, wherever possible, references to the contemporary reception of the guides to invest them with a context of appreciation.

The appendix includes several practical resources for a study of the American Guides. Ten sample dustjackets of the American Guides are included in color reproduction. Often the cover illustrations of the guides corroborated a local argument made in the respective volume, and depicting these very rare graphic designs in this study serves to widen the understanding of the various meaning-making methods of the guides. The appendix also features an extensive listing of tables of contents of the guides for the purpose of showing their range of thematic concentrations and to document their specific choices in geographical approach.

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