Old Farmer's Almanac

Old Farmer's Almanac
The Old Farmer's Almanac
Editor in Chief
Judson D. Hale Sr.
Janice Stillman
Categories Almanacs
Frequency Annually
Publisher Yankee Publishing, Inc.
First issue 1792
Company Yankee Publishing, Inc.
Country USA
Flag of Canada.svg Canada
Language English
Website www.almanac.com
ISSN 0078-4516

The Old Farmer's Almanac is a reference book that contains weather forecasts, tide tables, planting charts, astronomical data, recipes, and articles on a number of topics including gardening, sports, astronomy and farming. The book also features anecdotes and a section that predicts trends in fashion, food, home décor, technology and living for the coming year.

Released the second Tuesday in September of the year prior to the year printed on its cover, The Old Farmer's Almanac has been published continuously since 1792, making it the oldest continuously published periodical in North America.[1]


Early history (1792–1850)

Cover of the 1793 edition.

The first Old Farmer's Almanac (then known as The Farmer's Almanac) was edited by Robert B. Thomas, the publication's founder.[2]

There were many competing almanacs in the 18th century, but Thomas's upstart was a success.[2] In its second year, distribution tripled to 9,000.[1] The cost of the book was six pence (about four cents).[3]

To calculate the Almanac's weather predictions, Thomas studied solar activity,[4] astronomy cycles and weather patterns and used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today.[3] Other than the Almanac's prognosticators, few people have seen the formula. It is kept in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.[1]

Thomas also started drilling a hole through the Almanac so that subscribers could hang it from a nail or a string. Subscribers would hang the Almanac in their outhouse to provide family members with both reading material and toilet paper.[5]

Thomas served as editor until his death on May 19, 1846. As its editor for more than 50 years, Thomas established The Old Farmer's Almanac as America's "most enduring" almanac by outlasting the competition.[6]

Becoming "Old"

In 1832, having survived longer than similarly named competitors, Thomas inserted the word "Old" in the title of his Farmer's Almanac,[1] but dropped it from the book's title in the 1836 edition. After Thomas's death, John Henry Jenks was appointed editor and, in 1848, the book's name was permanently and officially revised to The Old Farmer's Almanac.

19th and 20th centuries

Cover of the 1851 edition.

In 1851, Jenks made another change to the Almanac when he featured a "four seasons" drawing on the cover by Boston artist Hammatt Billings, engraved by Henry Nichols. Jenks dropped the new cover for three years, and then reinstated it permanently in 1855. This trademarked design is still in use today.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln may have used a copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac to argue the innocence of his client, William "Duff" Armstrong, who was on trial for murder in Beardstown, Illinois.[7] Lincoln used an almanac to refute the testimony of Charles Allen, an eyewitness who claimed he had seen the crime by the light of the moon[8] on August 29, 1857. The book stated that not only was the Moon in the first quarter, but it was riding "low" on the horizon, about to set. However, because the actual almanac used in the trial was not retained for posterity, there exists some controversy as to whether The Old Farmer's Almanac was the one used. In 2007, a competing almanac, the Farmers' Almanac, based in Lewiston, Maine, ran an article claiming that the almanac in question may have been theirs.[9]

In 1861, Charles Louis Flint became editor and provided his readers with a heavier emphasis on farming. The next two editors, John Boies Tileston and Loomis Joseph Campbell, served short terms and made no format changes.[10]

Robert Ware took over as the book's sixth editor in 1877 and served for 13 years before his brother, Horace, was named to the position in 1900. During Horace Everett Ware's 19 years as editor, he began to orient the book toward a more general audience by replacing the scientific agricultural articles with general features on nature and modern life.[10]

The eighth and ninth editors, Frank B. Newton and Col. Carroll J. Swan, kept the Almanac tradition alive through wartime and the Depression.[10]

Roger Scaife was appointed editor in 1936.[1] His term coincided with the only time in the history of the Almanac that its distribution declined and the book's financial stability fell into question. The 1938 edition had a circulation of less than 89,000, compared with 225,000 in 1863.[10]

During his tenure, Scaife also committed the greatest of all blunders in Almanac history: In the 1938 edition, he dropped the weather forecasts.[1] In their place, he substituted temperature and precipitation averages.[11] The public outcry was so great that he reinstated the forecasts in the next year's edition,[1] but the decision had already destroyed his reputation.[10]

A new beginning

In 1939, Robb Sagendorph, founder and president of Yankee, Inc. (later known as Yankee Publishing, Inc.), acquired the publishing rights to The Old Farmer's Almanac and became its editor.[11] Sagendorph had moved his family to Dublin, New Hampshire in 1930, and started the magazine Yankee in 1935.[12] Feeling that tradition was the Almanac's strongest suit, Sagendorph immediately reestablished its format and editorial style to reflect the interests of the general populace much as it had a century earlier.[11] He was fond of quoting Robert B. Thomas, who wrote in 1829 that the Almanac "strives to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor."[13] Under Sagendorph's leadership, The Old Farmer's Almanac thrived and readership grew each year.[11]

A halt in publication (almost)

During World War II, a German spy was apprehended in New York with a copy of the 1942 Almanac in his pocket.[1]

From 1943 through 1945, to comply with the U.S. Office of Censorship's voluntary Code of Wartime Practices for press and radio, the Almanac featured weather indications rather than forecasts.[14][15][16] This allowed the Almanac to maintain its perfect record of continuous publication.

Recent history

Sagendorph served as the Almanac's editor until his death in 1970. His nephew, Judson D. Hale, Sr., took over and kept the Almanac true to the vision of his uncle. In 2000, the editorial reins were passed to Janice Stillman, the first woman in the Almanac's history to hold the position. She is the thirteenth person to hold the title of editor since it was first published in 1792.[17] Hale still acts as the publication's editor-in-chief. In 1992, the Almanac's distribution passed the four million mark.[1] It is still headquartered in Dublin, New Hampshire.

In the 1990s the editors decided to discontinue drilling the hole in the Almanac because it was costing them $40,000 a year and they felt that it was no longer needed. However, when the surveyed their subscribers, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the holes so the editors decided to continue drilling the holes.[5]


The Old Farmer's Almanac publishes four editions per year. The only difference between the three U.S. editions is the city by which astronomical information is calculated and how tide times are presented. The National edition is fitted for Boston and the New England states;[18] the Southern edition is fitted for Atlanta and the southern states;[19] and the Western edition is fitted for San Francisco and the western states.[20] Each edition contains calculations to answer for all the United States.[18][19][20]

In 1982, The Old Farmer's Almanac began publishing an annual Canadian edition.[21] This edition is fitted for Ottawa, with calculations to answer for all the Canadian provinces,[22] and features provincial weather forecasts as well as stories that speak specifically to the history, traditions, and culture of the country.

Weather predictions

While The Old Farmer's Almanac has always looked to Thomas's original formula to help with predictions, its forecasting methods have been refined over the years. Today, they also employ state-of-the-art technology and the use of three scientific disciplines: solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere. Weather trends and events are predicted by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity.[4]

Forecasts emphasize temperature and precipitation deviations from averages. These are based on 30-year statistical averages prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and updated every ten years. The most recent climatological normals tabulation spans the period 1971 through 2000.[23]

Forecasts are prepared as much as 18 months in advance[4] and presented in each edition by region. There are 16 regions for the U.S.[24] and five for Canada[25] in their respective country editions. Four additional regions are available on the Almanac's Web site, Almanac.com. These include Hawaii and Alaska for the U.S. and the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories for Canada.[26]

In its bicentennial edition, the Almanac stated, "neither we nor anyone else has as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict weather with anything resembling total accuracy."[1] The Almanac claims that its long-range weather forecasts are 80% accurate.[27] One disputing analysis concluded that these forecasts are at most 2% more accurate than random guesses.[28] Pennsylvania State University meteorologist Paul Knight notes that the Almanac's forecasts are so vague that it is difficult to assess whether they are accurate or not.[29]

In 2008, the Almanac stated that the earth had entered a global cooling period that would probably last decades. The journal based its prediction on sunspot cycles. Said contributing meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo, "Studying these and other factor suggests that cold, not warm, climate may be our future."[30]

Related publications and entities

Under The Old Farmer's Almanac brand, Yankee Publishing also produces The All-Seasons Garden Guide, an annual gardening resource,[31] and The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids, an Almanac-inspired book designed for children ages 8 and up.[32] The latter is published every other year.

In addition to annual and biannual books, the Almanac has inspired a line of themed calendars including Gardening, Weather Watcher's, and Country (all for wall display); Every Day (with advice, folklore, and quotes in a page-a-day format); and a spiral-bound Engagement calendar.

Over the years, the Almanac has published several cookbooks, food-related magazines, and a guide for homeowners.

The Old Farmer's Almanac has also inspired a chain of retail locations called The Old Farmer's Almanac General Store. In early 2007, store locations included Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut; the Louisiana Boardwalk shopping center in Bossier City, Louisiana; and the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[33] Sparks, Nevada at the Legends at Sparks Marina shopping center.

Online presence

In 1996, The Old Farmer's Almanac launched Almanac.com.[34] This online presence features the same kind of information found in the print edition, including weather forecasts, astronomy, folklore, recipes, gardening advice, history, and trivia.

In 2003, The Old Farmer's Almanac distributed a 32-page Almanac Just For Kids.[35] The positive response[35] led to the release of The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids in 2005, and the Almanac launched Almanac4kids.com.[36] This site is dedicated to content for younger readers, their parents, and teachers, featuring interactive activities and exclusive articles that further explore topics found in the book.[35]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Park, Edwards (November 1992). "Weathering every season with one canny compendium". Smithsonian Magazine: pp. p. 91 
  2. ^ a b "Thomas, Robert Bailey". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. January 2004. http://www.bartleby.com/65/th/ThomasR.html. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Lamb, David (February 1, 1993). "Almanac begins third century of know-and-tell". Los Angeles Times: pp. 5. 
  4. ^ a b c Pierce, John (September 20, 2000). "Strange Weather and What it Means" (SMIL (RealAudio)). Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1082107. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b The hole story of almanac cover.
  6. ^ "almanac". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. January 2004. http://www.bartleby.com/65/al/almanac.html. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  7. ^ Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (2007). "The Papers of Abraham Lincoln". http://www.thelincolnlog.org/month.php?date_value=1858-05-07. Retrieved March 24, 2007. [dead link]
  8. ^ University of Illinois Library (2007). "Lincoln Room – Lincoln Collections". Archived from the original on December 5, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061205225335/http://www.library.uiuc.edu/ihx/lincolnindex.htm. Retrieved March 24, 2007. 
  9. ^ Rao, Joe (2007). "A 100% Guarantee and How We 'May' Have Helped a Former U.S. President,". Farmer's Almanac (190): 142–144. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Almanac.com (February 22, 2007). "History of The Old Farmer's Almanac". http://www.almanac.com/history/. Retrieved February 22, 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c d Sagendorph, Robb (January 1965). "My Life with the Old Farmer's Almanac". The American Legion Magazine: pp. 24–26, 50–52 
  12. ^ New Hampshire Secretary of State – Corporation Division (August 5, 1935). "Corporation Filings". https://www.sos.nh.gov/corporate/soskb/Filings.asp?349014. Retrieved February 25, 2007. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Robert B. (1829). "To Patrons". The Old Farmer's Almanac (Richardson and Lord) (XXXVII): 1. 
  14. ^ "To Patrons and Correspondents". The Old Farmer's Almanac (151): 2. 1943. 
  15. ^ "To Patrons and Correspondents". The Old Farmer's Almanac (152): 2. 1944. 
  16. ^ "To Patrons and Correspondents". The Old Farmer's Almanac (153): 2. 1945. 
  17. ^ Almanac.com (2007). "The Old Farmer's Almanac – Our Editors". Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061018113436/http://www.almanac.com/press/editors.php. Retrieved March 24, 2007. 
  18. ^ a b "Title Page". The Old Farmer's Almanac – National Edition (215): 1. 2007. 
  19. ^ a b "Title Page". The Old Farmer's Almanac – Southern Edition (215): 1. 2007. 
  20. ^ a b "Title Page". The Old Farmer's Almanac – Western Edition (215): 1. 2007. 
  21. ^ Almanac.com (2007). "The Old Farmer's Almanac – Writer's Guidelines". Archived from the original on December 6, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061206183423/http://www.almanac.com/guidelines/index.php. Retrieved February 26, 2007. 
  22. ^ "Title Page". The Old Farmer's Almanac – Canadian Edition (215): 1. 2007. 
  23. ^ National Climatic Data Center, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce (2007). "U.S. Normals". http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/normals/usnormals.html. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  24. ^ "Table of Contents". The Old Farmer's Almanac – National Edition (215): 2. 2007. 
  25. ^ "Table of Contents". The Old Farmer's Almanac – Canadian Edition (215): 2. 2007. 
  26. ^ Almanac.com (2007). "7-Day Weather Forecast Locations in USA and Canada". http://www.almanac.com/weather/forecast/locations/index.php. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  27. ^ The Weather Notebook (2003). "The Almanac Defends". http://www.weathernotebook.org/transcripts/2003/02.php. Retrieved March 11, 2007. [dead link]
  28. ^ MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (February 2, 1996). "Online NewsHour: Online Forum with Weatherman Ed O'Lenic". http://www.pbs.org/newshour/forum/february96/weather_2-2.html. Retrieved September 12, 2006. 
  29. ^ http://www.rps.psu.edu/probing/almanac.html
  30. ^ Tirrell-Wysocki, David, "Old Farmer's Almanac forecasts global 'cooling'", Brattleboro Reformer, September 9, 2008.
  31. ^ Almanac.com (2007). "The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide". Archived from the original on July 15, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070715024615/http://www.almanac.com/garden/07.gg/index.php. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  32. ^ Almanac.com (2005). "Web Store Item Detail Page". http://store.almanac.com/cgi-bin/95AB58B9/mac/additmdtl.mac/showItemDetail?loadItem=OF05KIDS. Retrieved March 11, 2007. 
  33. ^ Almanac.com (2007). "Old Farmer's Almanac General Stores". Archived from the original on October 24, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061024142522/http://www.almanac.com/press/generalstore.php. Retrieved March 11, 2007. 
  34. ^ The Internet Archive (December 19, 1996). "1996 version of Almanac.com". Archived from the original on December 19, 1996. http://web.archive.org/web/19961219200508/http://www.almanac.com/. Retrieved February 22, 2007. 
  35. ^ a b c Almanac4Kids.com (2007). "Old Farmer's Almanac For Kids – About Us". http://www.almanac4kids.com/about/index.php. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  36. ^ The Internet Archive (November 19, 2005). "2005 version of Almanac4Kids.com". Archived from the original on December 19, 1996. http://web.archive.org/web/19961219200508/http://www.almanac.com/. Retrieved February 22, 2007. 

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