Magazine September 20, 2010, Issue

The Color of No Money

(Evgen_Prozhyrko/Getty Images)

In the previous depression, the government employed serious writers at the WPA to keep them from doing something rash, like writing popular books people might actually enjoy. Many were sent around to write guides to the states; I’ve looked at just a few, but they’re so leaden the only possible purpose they served was to be stuffed in the pockets of a body you wanted to dump in the Hudson. My favorite resource for understanding ’30s culture isn’t a government guide or an economic treatise, but a Sears Roebuck catalogue from 1934. The goods spill off the pages; the men

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