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'Vardis Fisher's Boise' 1938 guide book unearthed by Boise State professor

The 60,000-word mostly negative manuscript about Boise had been sitting in the Library of Congress since 1938.

BOISE, Idaho — You probably have to dig pretty deep to find more than a handful of people within Idaho that know about Vardis Fisher.

Born in eastern Idaho in 1895, Fisher was a prolific writer, finishing nearly three dozen books before he died in 1968.

Many of those books were published by Caxton Printers in Caldwell.

During the Great Depression, the federal government created the WPA, a New Deal program to get people working.

6,000 writers were hired to create the American Guide Series, essentially a travel guide for each of the then 48 states.

In 1938, Idaho's travel guide was the first to be finished, thanks to Fisher.

So he decided to write another guide book about Boise a year later.

The problem? It was never actually published.

Boise State librarian and archivist Alex Meregaglia was looking into the history of the Caxton Company when he heard of that book.

"Fisher was an individualist, absolutely, and unconcerned with criticism and unconcerned with what other people thought," Meregaglia said.

In 2018, he went to the Library of Congress, the biggest library in the world.

That's where he found Fisher's manuscript.

"[It was] in a box, in a folder that had been sitting there for 80 years," Meregaglia said.

MORE: KTVB launches new 5 p.m. show 'The 208' with a different approach to Idaho news

He found that the 60,000-word manuscript wasn't so kind to the City of Trees.

"I mean the first sentence he writes 'as cities go Boise is physically attractive but it is the trees and not the buildings that make it so,' so right off the bat he’s criticizing the architecture."

And it didn't stop there.

"He says the state capital has the customary lack of originality found in all buildings patterned after the parent in Washington, D.C., so he thinks it’s nothing special."

So Meregaglia decided he would transcribe the manuscript, find photos from that era and publish the book.

"I think it’s very important to the history of Boise to understand, to help understand the city in the 1930s during the Great Depression."

Boise artist Ward Hooper designed the book's cover that features a photo of the Idanha Hotel in downtown Boise.

Rediscovered Books is publishing Meregaglia's 'Vardis Fisher's Boise.' It will be available for purchase beginning Jan. 30, 2020.

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