Named by the Library of Congress in a 2012 exhibit as among the top 100 Books that Shaped America, this two-volume set contains 500 stories and 100 songs collected from the author's time as national folklore editor for the Federal Writer's Project (1938-39) as well as his work as archivist of folksongs at the Library of Congress. As Carl Sandburg writes in his foreword, So here we have thing less than an encyclopedia of the folklore of America. An encyclopedia is where you get up into box car numbers...besides giving you the company of nice, darnfool yarn spinners, it will give you something of the feel of American history, of the gloom chasers that moved many a good man who fought fire and flood, varmints and vermin, as region after region filled with settlers and homesteaders.
Benjamin Botkin headed the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folksong (now the American Folklife Center) between 1943 and 1945 and previously served as national folklore editor of the Federal Writers' Project (1938-39), a program of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal during the Depression. Botkin was one of the New Deal folklorists who persuasively argued that folklore was relevant in the present and that it was not something that should be studied merely for its historical value. He died in 1975.