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Writers' Program in West Virginia Records

Collection Number: A&M 0454

Scope and Contents

Papers created by the Writers' Program in West Virginia (ca. 1935-1942), a part of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). For more information regarding this Program, please see the Biographical / Historical Note.

The Writers' Program collection is arranged into series established on the basis of topics. This topical arrangement simply emerged from the documentation resulting from the subject-based research assignments delegated to the writers.

There are six series in the collection:

Series 1. Counties, Boxes 1-86
Series 2. General Material, Boxes 87-89
Series 3. Folklore by County, Boxes 89-91
Series 4. Harpers Ferry, Boxes 92-93
Series 5. Fact Book, Boxes 93-103
Series 6. Writers Project, Boxes 103-108
Series 7. Oversize, Box 109

The Counties series, the largest series in the collection, includes material focused on the following topics: natural setting, points of interest, places and place names, early life and occupations, the people, history, Civil War history, biographical sketches, transportation and communication, commerce and industry, cultural and social advances, county government, education, religion, annual events, permanent organizations, and folklore. Other series in the collection cover many additional topics.

The sources accessed by the writers for their research include: interviews and eyewitness accounts, court records, governmental records, church and cemetery records, family records, and school records. The personnel of local historical societies, educational institutions, governmental agencies, and community organizations were consulted for information as well. In some cases the personal memories and observations of the writers were used as source material. Much of the material in the collection includes cover sheets that indicate sources. The resulting quantity and quality of research and writing varies within the collection.

Published material consulted and transcribed by the Writers' Program includes: newspapers, magazines, journals, bulletins, pamphlets, booklets, high school yearbooks, surveys, business and industry statistics, textbooks, blue books, encyclopedias, and atlases.

Unpublished material, or archives and manuscripts, consulted and transcribed by the Writers' Program includes letters, telegrams, diaries, photographs, transcripts of interviews, and narratives.

Although most material consists of transcriptions, some original documents can be found in the collection as well, both published and unpublished.

Items of special interest include originals and transcripts of letters from the Civil War period in the General Material series. The Harpers Ferry series includes several firsthand accounts regarding the Ferry's rich history, including John Brown's 1859 raid and the Civil War.


  • Creation: ca. 1850-1942
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ca. 1935-1942


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical / Historical

The Writers Project was created in 1935 as part of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). Its purpose was to provide employment for historians, teachers, librarians, writers, and others with qualified skills. The field of assignment for those hired was usually confined to the locality of a writer's residence, although some assignments were for statewide subjects.

The objective of the project was to produce a series of sectional guide books under the name "The American Guide" focusing on the history, geography, and cultural and economic resources of the United States. Other topics of interest developed, however, and were added to the Project, such as urban and rural folklore, first person narratives or life histories, studies of the cultures of ethnic groups, and authentic narratives of ex-slaves.

The Writers Project became a casualty of World War II. The monies needed to meet the demands for defense were drained from the Writers Project, ending the program in 1942.


45.6 Linear Feet (45 ft. 7 in. (109 document cases, 5 in. each); (1 flat storage box, 2 in.))

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Related A&M Collections

183, 454, 527

Legacy Formats

archives and manuscripts; pamphlets; photographs / postcards / prints / etc.

Writers' Program in West Virginia Records
Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US