During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a source of relief for people who had lost their jobs. The Federal Writers’ Project, part of the WPA, provided work for writers of all abilities. The project’s greatest achievement was the publication of guidebooks for every state in the Union. Vermont: A Guide to the Green Mountain State was published in 1937.
Driving tours make up half of the Guide's content. Tours Through Time is an effort to ride, research, and write about these tours, highlighting the history and places mentioned in the tours and also noting the history that has happened along these routes since 1937.
I have written an article for part of Tour 2, specifically the section that runs from Reading, my town, through Barnard. It will appear in Woodstock Magazine in two parts. The first, from Reading to South Woodstock, will be published in June 2020 and the second in September.
With massive job losses, an uncertain economic future, and the likelihood that tourism will suffer, the present seems much like the era in which the Guide was published. The writings in this project will serve a similar purpose as the Guide’s: To highlight the history and scenic beauty of Vermont, and encourage people to get out and experience it. Like the Guide, my project will also highlight the bonds of our shared history.
Since I discovered the American Guide Series almost twenty years ago, I have performed extensive research. I have amassed a library of books, articles, and resources on the history of the American Guide Series, the Federal Writers’ Project, and other Depression-era relief projects. See attached bibliography).
For the first deliverable of this project, I researched at and interviewed members of the Reading Historical Society, the South Woodstock Historical Society, and the Woodstock History Center. I spoke to locals who shed light on the history that occurred between 1937 and the present. I collected various historical photographs and articles that have helped me flesh out what I have read in the Guide. I also accessed the Agency of Transportation's online database to understand what the roads in Vermont were like in the 1930s and how they have changed.
For the next phase in this project, I will employ the same research methodology that I used for the first phase as I reconstruct the tour from Burlington to Rutland along US Route 7.