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History of the Farmers' Almanac

Benjamin Banneker and other Publishers

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Farmer's Alamanac

Farmer's Alamanac

Benjamin Banneker
By definition an almanac is "a book containing a calendar of a given year, with a record of various astronomical phenomena, often with weather prognostications, seasonal suggestions for farmers, and other information - Britannica"

Many historians consider that the first printed almanac dates to 1457 and was printed by Gutenberg in Mentz, Germany.

Early Farmers' Almanacs

An Almanack for New England for 1639, was compiled by William Pierce and printed by Stephen Daye in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the year-old Harvard University Press. This was the first American almanac and Stephen Daye brought the first printing press to the English colonies.

Benjamin Franklin published the Poor Richard's Almanacs beginning in 1732 to 1758. Benjamin Franklin used the assumed name of Richard Saunders and wrote witty maxims (sayings) in his almanacs; for example:

  • Light purse, heavy heart
  • Hunger never saw bad bread.
  • Relation without friendship, friendship without power, power without will, will without effect, effect without profit, & profit without vertue, are not worth a farto.

One of the earliest dual-color illustrated almanacs (1749), Der Hoch-Deutsch Americanische Kalender was printed in Germantown, Pennsylvania, by Christoph Saur. Saur's publication was the first foreign-language almanac printed in the United States.

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker is best known for his six annual Farmers' Almanacs published between 1792 and 1797. In his free time, Banneker began compiling the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac and Ephemeris. The almanacs included information on medicines and medical treatment, and listed tides, astronomical information, and eclipses, all calculated by Banneker himself.

Old Farmer's Almanac

The Old Farmer's Almanac (still in publication today) was originally published in 1792. Robert Thomas was the Old Farmer's Almanac's first editor and owner. Within three years circulation had raised from 3,000 to 9,000 and the cost of a Old Farmer's Almanac was about nine cents. On an interesting note, Robert Thomas only added the word "Old" to the title in 1832 and then promptly removed it. However in 1848, two years after his death, the new editor and owner put the word "Old" back.

Farmers' Almanac

Also still in publication, the Farmers' Almanac was founded by editor David Young and publisher Jacob Mann in 1818. David Young was editor until his death in 1852, when an astronomer named Samuel Hart Wright become his successor and calculated the astronomy and weather forecasts. Now, according to the Farmers' Almanac, the Almanac has become more guarded with its famous weather predicting formula and created "Caleb Weatherbee," a pseudonym that is given to all past, present, and future Almanac weather forecasters.

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