All the images in this category come from the dust jacket covers of the first printings of the storied American Guide Series, which was published from 1937 to 1941. You will see here all of the then-48 States, plus the District of Columbia, New York City and the Alaska and Puerto Rico territories. (There was no Guide for the Hawaii territory.) We've also thrown in the cover image of a paperback book on Baseball in Old Chicago, which was also produced by the same Federal Writers' Project which was responsible for the State Guides.
The 49 image montage poster is one we designed ourselves, and it depicts the 48 states in the order in which they were admitted to the Union, with the District of Columbia as the centerpiece anchor. Incidentally, this District of Columbia dust jacket is perhaps rarer than those of any of the State Guide first edition dust jackets. A friend of ours at the Library of Congress told us that he had never seen one in the 20+ years he had worked there. Assembling a set of first editions such as seen on this montage poster would be nearly impossible today, as collectors quickly cherrypick the few rare copies off the internet almost as soon as they appear.
To list but a few of the writers involved in the writing and editing of these guides: Lionel Abel, Conrad Aiken, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Arna Bontemps, Sterling Brown, John Cheever, Jack Conroy, Edward Dahlberg, Katherine Dunham, Loren Eiseley, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Meridel LeSeuer, John Lomax, Claude McKay, Willard Motley, Tillie Olsen, Kenneth Patchen, Philip Rahv, Kenneth Rexroth, J.A. Rogers, Isaac Rosenfeld, John Steinbeck, Margaret Walker, and Eudora Welty, whose photographs appear in the Mississippi Guide. You will note the disproportionate number of African American writers in this list, a phenomenon hardly typical of other New Deal agencies, where hiring policies often reflected the local culture of the Jim Crow city of Washington.
The American Guide Series was the crowning collective achievement of the Federal Writers' Project, which itself was a rather loose confederation of state and local projects, usually with little or no control from above. This, of course, led to the inevitable hiring of unemployed radical writers, which in turn led to conflicts with their more cautious overseers in Washington, and even more so with various congressmen seeking any stick to beat the New Deal over the head with. A combination of politics and the advent of the war killed off the FWP, but not before the last State Guide---Oklahoma---had been published just before Pearl Harbor. It was the only guide series of its type, and for many reasons will never be duplicated.