California in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the Golden State

California in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the Golden State

California in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the Golden State

California in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the Golden State


Alive with the exuberance, contradictions, and variety of the Golden State, this Depression-era guide to California is more than 700 pages of information that is, as David Kipen writes in his spirited introduction, "anecdotal, opinionated, and altogether habit-forming." Describing the history, culture, and roadside attractions of the 1930s, the WPA Guide to California features some of the very best anonymous literature of its era, with writing by luminaries such as San Francisco poet Kenneth Rexroth, composer-writer- hobo Harry Partch, and authors Tillie Olsen and Kenneth Patchen.


California has so great a diversity of places and people and things that the problem of getting it between the covers of a single book seemed almost unsolvable. the final preparation of this guide has involved the difficult task of choosing between what to put in and what to leave out. the staff of the Federal Writers’ Project in California knows that its own trials in gathering, checking and rechecking, assembling, and selecting the thousands of items that go into the making of a guide book have been shared by the editors of the forty-seven other State books in the American Guide Series. But in the course of eliminating more words than there are in these pages, the California staff has sometimes wished that its State were just a little smaller, so that it might be described in more detail.

And yet there is more in this book than the editors thought it could possibly include; for, although the distance between the borders of Oregon and Mexico is more miles than they like to think about, they have covered every mile. the book, moreover, has been written to be read, not only by those to whom California is still an unseen and fabulous land of sunshine and oranges, but also by those who will look in these pages for something new and little-known about the everyday California in which they live and work. For readers of both kinds, visitors and residents, the editors have tried to make this book a true mirror of the State and its people. Romance has been kept in its place —Joaquin Murrieta does not jump out from behind every tree or boulder in California to hold up travelers, and yet he does pop up often enough that the observant reader will have little trouble finding him.

The editors wish to acknowledge their indebtedness to the work of others who have preceded them in describing California, and especially to California, an Intimate Guide by Aubrey Drury, Rider’s California; a Guidebook for Travelers by Frémont Rider, and Historic Spots in California by H. E. and E. G. Rensch and Mildred Brooke Hoover.

The California staff gratefully acknowledges the aid of Federal, State, and local governmental agencies, and of commercial and civic associations and automobile clubs. Particular appreciation is due the staffs of the Bancroft and State Libraries, for their cooperation.

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