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Beginning in 1940, Historical Records Survey workers assigned to the Library's Documents Division began to collect and organize a complete set of the printed documents of the first fourteen American Congresses (1789-1817). The documents were arranged according to the order

of their listing in A.W. Greely's Public Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses (Washington, 1904). The Massachusetts HRS supplied the project with documents from the American Antiquarian Society that could not be located elsewhere; these documents were photostated and added to the collection. The project ceased when the Library of Congress Project was terminated, but since then it has been completed. The collection, numbering 20,532 pieces, is housed in the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

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The Los Angeles Stock Exchange on November 17, 1937, photographed by the Los Angeles Federal Writers' Project. Architectural Collections Prints and Photographs Division.

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A photograph of the Old South Meeting House in Boston taken for a Federal Writers' Project guide. Architectural Collections, Prints and Photographs Division.


The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress contains numerous containers of unpublished manuscripts, transcripts, and research materials generated by the arts projects, primarily the Historical Records Survey and the Federal Writers' Project. Most of this material came to the Library of Congress in 1939 with the national editorial projects of the records survey and the writers' project, then remained behind after those efforts ended in August 1940.

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Work relief for unemployed writers was provided by the Federal Writers' Project, which concentrated on "describing America to Americans," as this poster explains. Work on the state guidebooks took priority, but WPA writers also collected regional and local folklore, recorded life histories of longtime residents, interviewed former slaves, and produced short stories and poems. Poster Collection, Prints and Photographs Division.

The Historical Records Survey collection includes 131 containers of general administrative and project records, transcripts of county archives in Tennessee (27 containers), maritime records of the port of Philadelphia, 1766-1937, and registrations of deaths in the city of Philadelphia, 1803-60 (68 containers); Mormon diaries, journals, and biographical materials from Utah (14 containers); documents from Spanish archives relating to the history of North Carolina (3 containers); local records from Nashua, New Hampshire, 1627-1937; and records of the Matador Land and Cattle Company in Texas, 1885-1915.

The Federal Writers' Project portion of the collection, deposited at the Library in 1942, includes manuscripts that were approved for publication but remained unpublished for various reasons and copies of unedited material thought to be of potential research value. Two examples are materials for a book on eating customs called "America Eats," and 13 containers of materials for a history of grazing.

The location of the national writers' project editorial office at the Library of Congress between October 1939 and August 1940 meant that research materials for many of the titles in the American Guide series, including the guides for Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texas, also came to the Library. This collection, arranged by state or city, includes correspondence, memoranda, notes, critical opinions, and so forth.


Two hundred and twenty prints produced by WPA artists have been integrated into the fine print collection in the Prints and Photographs Division. Individual items are listed by artist in the fine prints card index and in the publication American Prints in the Library of Congress (Baltimore: Published for the Library of Congress by the Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970).


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Posters produced by the New York City and Arizona art projects to promote the American Guide Series. The New York City guide was reprinted in 1982 by Pantheon and currently sells for $20 clothbound, $8.95 paperbound.

Nearly a thousand silk-screened posters produced in the 1930s by various branches of the WPA are in the Prints and Photographs Division. Transferred to the Library in the 1940s, these posters were used to publicize Federal Theatre Project productions, exhibits, community activities, and health and educational programs in twenty states.

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