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During the 1930s in the United States, the Works Progress Administration developed the Federal Writers' Project to support writers and artists while making a national effort to document the country's shared history and culture. The American Guide series consists of individual guides to each of the states. Little-known authors—many of whom would later become celebrated literary figures—were commissioned to write these important books. John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ralph Ellison are among the more than 6,000 writers, editors, historians, and researchers who documented this celebration of local histories. Photographs, drawings, driving tours, detailed descriptions of towns, and rich cultural details exhibit each state's unique flavor.
At the time of the publication of the WPA Guide to Arizona in 1940, the Grand Canyon State was the newest addition to the union. The guide presents a state of contrasts, both geographically and culturally. The photographs show many facets of the state—from the mesas and desert lands to the Spanish missions and Native American art.