Local History and Such

American Life Histories
Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project


These titles are mostly first-person accounts of life in Alabama collected during the Great Depression. The WPA project categories include: INDUSTRY, COMMERCE AND LABOR and AFRO-AMERICAN LIFE.

Subjects include: AGRICULTURE, including markets, prices, dairy, turpentine and fishing (recreation); RELIGION, including beliefs and wedding and funeral customs; DAILY LIFE, including pets, home furnishings, thefts, New Deal politics, mortgages and food; and OCCUPATIONS, including physicians, truck drivers and odd jobs handymen.

Interviews were conducted by project workers William P. Burke, Mary Chappell, Luther Clark, John R. Estes, Lawrence F. Evans, Covington Hall, Woodrow Hand, Helen S. Hartley, Vera L. Henry, Rhussus L. Perry, Ila B. Prine, Marie Reese, Ruby Pickens Tartt, Mildred Thrash, and Annie Webb.


Amy Chapman's Funeral

The Armisteads (Clarke County)


Crawford Ellis

Declaration of Independence

"A Fish Basket"


History of career (in part) of J.H. KIMBROUGH

I's Weak an' Weary

Jesse Owens

Jim Lewis, Turpentine Worker

Johnnie Gates, Truck Miner

The Lewis Family and Their Floating Home

The Life of Jim Davis

Looking Around with a Hay Farmer


  Magnolia Grove

Marriage of Mr. H. Graham Benners and Miss Annie LeVert Poellnitz

Mary Gilchrist Powell

Mountain Merchant-Farmer

Mountain Thinker and Experimenter

Peter McDonald, A True Story of Today

Portable Steam Engine

The Progress of Education in Alabama

Rev. Lorenzo Dow

Sallie Brown

Sallie Smith

A speckled hen and her chickens

State Laws

The Story of Katy Brumby

Terrapin Dogs

A Visit to a Farming Dairy at Chunchula, Ala.


Text from: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection

"These life histories were written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents consist of drafts and revisions, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report to case history. The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts."

NOTE: The life histories and articles presented here have been read and compared to images of the original pages, and then edited to place them in a more readable form.  Handwritten notes have sometimes been deleted, transcriptions errors have been corrected, and many questionable transcriptions have been clarified. Some misspellings have been left as they were originally typed.

On occasion, at the beginning of an article under the title, I will include a section I've called 'Tom's note:'  These are personal observations that may or may not add value or expand the meaning of the article for you.


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Historical and Community Content

NEW!! DeMotte, Indiana History (1997)

New project: American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
      (This will be an ongoing project with entries added frequently.)

Churches in DeMotte, Indiana

City Methodist - Gary's Sacred Ruin
     Selections from 1967 City Methodist Church Directory (January 2004)
     Historic Gary Church Set for Wrecking Ball (June, 2005)
     Aerial Photos of City Methodist (August, 2005)

Photographs of Historic Places in Jasper County, Indiana
     Jasper County Courthouse  (February, 2002)
     Rensselaer Carnegie Library (February, 2002)
     St. Joseph Indian Normal School (Drexel Hall) (February, 2002)
     Independence Methodist Church (October, 2002)
     Fountain Park Chautauqua (October, 2002)
     Remington Water Tower (February, 2005)

Memorial to Victims of Flight 4184 (February, 2002)

Lake Michigan Vistas (May, 2002)

Door Prairie Auto Museum (LaPorte, Indiana) (September, 2002)

Northwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene former Campground (San Pierre, Lomax Station)
     Aerial Photos of former Campground (August, 2005)

Who's Who In the District (Northern Indiana Church of the Nazarene, 1939-40)

Nazarene Album (Northern Indiana District Church of the Nazarene, 1934)

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