History of The Old Farmer's Almanac

The Almanac Editors' Legacies

August 4, 2016
Old Farmer's Almanac Cover

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is North America’s most popular reference guide and oldest continuously published periodical. Its history is as rich and diverse as the Almanac itself.

How the Almanac Got Off to a Good Start

Under the guiding hand of its first editor, Robert B. Thomas, the premiere issue of The Old Farmer’s Almanac was published in 1792 during George Washington’s first term as president. Although many other almanacs were being published at that time, Thomas’s upstart almanac became an immediate success. In fact, by the second year, circulation had tripled from 3,000 to 9,000. Back then, the Almanac cost only six pence (about nine cents).

The 1793 (Old) Farmer’s Almanac, published in 1792.

An almanac, by definition, records and predicts astronomical events (the rising and setting of the Sun, for instance), tides, weather, and other phenomena with respect to time. So what made The Old Farmer’s Almanac different from the others? Since his format wasn’t novel, we can only surmise that Thomas’s astronomical and weather predictions were more accurate, the advice more useful, and the features more entertaining.

Based on his observations, Thomas used a complex series of natural cycles to devise a secret weather forecasting formula, which brought uncannily accurate results, traditionally said to be 80 percent accurate. (Even today, his formula is kept safely tucked away in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.)

Thomas’s last edition, in 1846, was not much different from his first, over 50 years earlier. However, in that time he established The Old Farmer’s Almanac as America’s leading periodical by outselling and outlasting the competition. He died in 1846 at the age of 80, supposedly reading page proofs for the 1847 edition.

The Almanac Hits Its Stride

The new editor, John H. Jenks, was helped by the fact that Thomas had already calculated the astronomical material for several future editions. In 1848 Jenks permanently and officially added the Old to the title of the Almanac. It had been previously known as The Farmer’s Almanac, except in 1832 when Thomas had inserted the word Old (but he inexplicably dropped it from the title three years later).

Jenks’s next change came in 1851, when he featured a four seasons drawing on the cover by artist Henry Nichols. This drawing has been on the cover of every edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac ever since.

In 1861, Charles L. Flint became editor and provided his readers with a heavy emphasis on farming. The next two editors, John Boies Tileston and Loomis Joseph Campbell, served short terms and did little more than keep the Almanac going in the traditional format.

Robert Ware took over as sixth editor in 1877, but his main interest was the publishing business, and he probably delegated many of the editorial tasks. Ware’s brother, Horace, took the reins in 1900. During his 19 years as editor, he began to orient the book toward a more general audience by replacing the scientific agriculture articles with general features on nature and modern life.

The eighth and ninth editors, Frank Newton and Carroll Swan, kept the Almanac tradition alive even during times of war and the Depression. (Even to this date, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has never missed a single year of publication.)

Greatest of All Almanac Blunders

Roger Scaife was appointed editor in 1936. His term coincided with the only time in the history of the Almanac that it declined precipitously in circulation and financial stability. (The 1938 edition had a circulation of only 88,000, compared with 225,000 in 1863!) Scaife also committed the greatest of all Almanac blunders: He dropped the weather forecasts! In their place, he substituted temperature and precipitation averages. The public outcry was so great that he reinstated the forecasts in the next year’s edition, but it was too late to save his reputation.

Robb Sagendorph Leads the Almanac

Robb Sagendorph knew a good deal when he saw one, and in 1939 he bought The Old Farmer’s Almanac and became editor. Sagendorph, who had moved his family to tiny Dublin, New Hampshire, four years earlier to start Yankee Magazine, now held the future of the Almanac in his hands. Luckily, he had a strong grip, a keen sense of the publishing business, and a nurturing heart devoted to tradition.

Sagendorph, feeling that tradition was the Almanac’s strongest suit, immediately reestablished its format and editorial style to be more as it was under Robert B. Thomas. As a result, The Old Farmer’s Almanac became witty, wise, and more entertaining, as it had been a hundred years earlier.

In 1942, a German spy was apprehended by the FBI after being landed on Long Island, New York, by a U-boat the night before. The impact of this event was felt all the way to Dublin, New Hampshire, because The Old Farmer’s Almanac was found in his coat pocket. The U.S. government speculated that the Germans were using the Almanac for weather forecasts, which meant that the book was indirectly supplying information to the enemy.

Fortunately, Sagendorph managed to get the government to agree that there would be no violation of the “Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press” if the Almanac featured weather indications rather than forecasts. It was a close call that almost ruined the Almanac’s perfect record of continuous publication.

The story since World War II has been one of growth and expanded range. The Almanac passed the four million circulation mark in the early 1990s. Robb Sagendorph died in 1970, after 30 years as editor, and his nephew, Judson Hale, took over.

In 2000, Janice Stillman became the 13th (and first female) editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She maintains the style established by her predecessors, the editorial direction taken by Hale, and a true dedication to hundreds of years of tradition while striving always to appear brand-spanking-new.

In 2016, The Old Farmer’s Almanac celebrated its 225th anniversary. With that year’s release of The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Almanac also debuted an enhanced and updated logo and cover design

Learn more about the Almanac’s origins, history, and odd moments along its path to North America’s most popular reference book! Watch The Old Farmer’s Almanac Documentary Video!

Reader Comments

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Why does the almanac cost less for Brits after taking Pound/Dollar conversions and even taking market value fluctuations? Seems like a swift kick in the nether realm when an American company that has been around for over 200 years is giving another country a better deal on their products.

Almanac price

The Editors's picture

We’re not clear what you mean. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is only sold in the United States and Canada, not in the U.K. We only cover those weather regions and gardening zones. Perhaps you could buy the Almanac on Amazon or with a third-party vendor but we do not have control over their costs.

Signed copy

I got a 1904 edition of George Kittredge's The Old Farmer and His Almanack signed "With compliments" by Horace B Ware. He was the editor of the Farmer's Almanack at that time. Was he interviewed by Kittredge? And were they friends? Thanks

1845-49 Almanac, if covered Missouri

Hello, I'm an American living in Germany, writing a very detail driven 'City Slicker' western taking place in 1881-2. Living here makes it much more difficult to do research.

A Lady, Mrs. Alvord, of the then '1879-83' famous Alvord House Hotel in Denver, (You can see a picture of it in Denver Library's digital section; for a couple of years the best hotel in Denver.) gets her part of the book. I get to throw in the Erie Canal and paddle wheel boats on the Great Lakes. Even get to mention the Ohio Canal. I even have Opera in this western.

Her family the Algers had been in the Salt business of Salina, NY, later incorporated into Syracuse along with the Alvords. Her husband was a farming Alvord. They move to Caldwell, Mo, in 1845, with enough money to set up with prosperous farmers.
I "need" to find out if your Almanac covered Missouri in '45-49. (I do of course have one of your reproduction almanac's. I'd have to dig through my library to find it, but it is a much later date I think.)
She later becomes a '49er, marches back across the country to the east in '58. Then marches to Colorado in '60. Which trumps my Heroine's 90-mile-long Jornada del Muerto (Journey of the Dead) on the Chihuahua trail.
She is one of two pioneer women I cover in the book, the other is Mrs. Augusta Tabor, or the Baby Doe, triangle. I am a fan of Augusta; not of the gold digger.

The 'new' genealogical US Census has been the greatest help, to give me ages, families, and even in the 1850-60 ones how well off the families were.
Denver's City directories gives me the boot maker, and where he lives (and from where he lives how how energetic he was from where he lives over the next decade.) and any one else in town.
Sanborn maps gives me the amount of stories a building had, what a building was made of and how it was shingled. Fashion is of course covered, as is the long wearying death of President Garfield. He could write in Latin and Greek simultaneously. The last of our Log Cabin Presidents.
It appears I've Michenerized this set of three books, without expecting too.

In today's world of blogs, one must be as humanly accurate as possible, or some one will scream I didn't do my research; don't buy that book.
Such as I had to change a 17 Jeweled pocket watch to a 15 jeweled one, in my watch was two years too soon.

So even if the Farmer's Almanac didn't cover Missouri, it would have still been used. However if it did cover the then West of Missouri, Iowa; the three or four words saying so, would 'help' me.
I took the time to learn so much of the 1840-80 potatoes, I now know what an 'Early' is and which were best then; so does my heroine.

Thank you for any help you can give me.
Perhaps that Lady with the 1840, 1853, 1855 Almanac's could be contacted?

Bill Cameron

1845–49 or bust

The Editors's picture

Hi, Bill, Sorry to say that The Old Farmer’s Almanac did not “cover” Missouri during the period in question. It may, as you suggest, have been read by someone in that area at that time, but circulation/distribution being what it was at that time (scant: usually by peddlers and itinerant salespeople), it was not purposefully sold there. Its content covered/addressed the northeast US at that time. National distribution and content was introduced in the mid-1900s. Good luck with your book!

Finished Book


I have tried to find a finished book fitting your description. I was wondering do you have it close to completion and could I obtain a copy. I am intrigued at the details I feel it will possess.

Thank you, David Blakley

Looking for a farmers almanac from 1926

|I am sure they exist somewhere. I am writing a novel about 1926 and looking for a Farmer's Almanac from that year. Could you please suggest how I could find one?

Novel Solutions

The Editors's picture

Hi, Grace: The first place to start is your local library, to see if perhaps they can borrow one on interlibrary loan from your state library or perhaps a university (particularly of the ag type) in your state. You can also find 1926 almanacs (although not ours at this particular time) on Ebay.com. When searching anywhere, remember to search both for “Farmer’s” (like ours) and “Farmers’ ” to get all options. Good luck with your novel–we’ll look forward to reading it!

Farmers Almanacs 1840, 1853, 1855

We were cleaning out our family home and found 3 farmers almanacs 1840,1853,1855 Boston editions and they all have a wooden attachment to the binder with a circle cut out in the middle near the top. Similar to a wooden spoon but with a whole in the middle. We are thinking this may be the edition that hung at the family's general store. I was wondering if you are familiar with this wooden attachment to the farmers almanac

old editions of the Almanac

The Editors's picture

Hi, Terri, Thanks for sharing this. It’s not something that we are familiar with. It sounds very clever and may be some sort of custom attachment.  Thanks for tell us about it!


I am visiting for the very first time and am delighted that I did. Congratulations to all those who have thrown in their lot with the "Old Almanac...' over the years. I love the "useful and fun" aspect and congratulate Janice Stillman on being the present and continued successful first woman editor of the "Old A..." I'm thinking that perhaps I would like to borrow the "useful and fun" aspect of your philosophy. I'm 71 and as such have begun thinking about aspects of "late blooming" "what's it all about," "better late than never," checking out the stuff in the bucket. Your Almanac philosophy is one I share and hope you won't mind if I maybe adapt it in my epitaph which I think I may need to start a draft of soon. I have always intended, though may not always have succeeded that with respect to living my life and loving others, that I have tried to be sensitive and kind, to see the good in others over the not so good, and to strive to be like the "Old Almanac..." -- thoughtful, useful, and fun.

Thank you!

The Editors's picture

Hi, Mona,  Welcome! and thank you so much for your kind words. It sounds to me like you are indeed thoughtful, useful, and fun! May I ask, how you found the Almanac and/or Almanac.com: are you a gardener? was the Almanac given to you as a gift? Did Almanac.com show up in a Google search for something else? We are always interested to know how “new” people come to our pages (print and digital!). We hope that you find lots to help you enjoy everyday. We think you’ll find everything under the Sun, including the Moon!

All the best!

Janice Stillman


The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Hi, Do you know if this


Do you know if this almanac could be used/ was used for other regions (Asia,Africa)??
How effective are the weather forecast for the farmers, due to climate change??



The Old Farmer's Almanac is

The Editors's picture

The Old Farmer's Almanac is an annual publication that only covers North American (U.S. and Canada). Some of the content would certainly be relevant and enjoyed by others, but we only publish the printed book in North America. We do sell an online digital version in www.Almanac.com/store for a small fee. Our long-range weather predictions are based on above/below averages and are traditionally 80% accurate.

Can you please tell me who is

Can you please tell me who is the author of the Farmer's Calendar essays in the 1975 issue of The Old Farmer's Almanac?

These small essays are such splendid reading that I wonder if the author has published a book collecting his/her writings in a similar vein.

Thank you in advance.

Mrs. Klopfenstein, Many

The Editors's picture

Mrs. Klopfenstein, Many thanks for this tribute. We shared your kind words with the entire staff. 
To answer your question, the writer was Benjamin (aka Ben) Rice. Ben wrote the Farmer's Calendar essays from 1943 through 1977 before he passed away. He lived in Peterborough, NH.
You may also find it interesting we published a book (c. 1974) titled "The Old Farmer's Almanac Book of Country Essays." It is a collection of 36 of Benjamin Rice's Farmer's Calendar essays.
It is no longer in print, but you can find used copies. As of today, we saw a copy on Amazon.com:

(I'll be challenged here I

(I'll be challenged here I suppose.) We inherited our father's collection of almanacs. Many thousands from many regions, states, and publisher's themes back to the late 1700's. He bragged about having the largest private collection in existence. He held an executive position with USDA, so I put a lot of credibility to his claim. Now I need to decide whether to keep these packed away in banker-boxes forever or find a proper home for them. Dad deeply believed in the preservation of history via literature. This is only one of his accumulations of old literature and relevant "items", but is the topic at hand on this site. I would appreciate wiser opinions than my "guesses" at how to handle these. Out of the dozen's, if not hundred of titles one special title, according to Dad, is the Ayer's American Almanac, Lowell, Mass circa 1853-1925, was his special complete set (for reasons I don't recall) while many others were of varying degrees of "completeness". Again, any wise guidance is appreciated.

Hi, Mike, Your dad must have

The Editors's picture

Hi, Mike, Your dad must have been quite a guy.
We can give you some ideas; but in case one that you had is to offer this collection (or part of it) to us, we must say, "No, thank you." Although we too agree with the idea of preservating history through literature, we have full sets of our Almanac and no space for others.
What to do? It is difficult to impossible to know if anyone or organization will want any issues. And, honestly, it might take some time to figure out who, if, where, etc. Here are a few starters, in no particular order:
• Collectors may be interested. You could pursue any in your area or in the nearest major city (you did not give your location) or even on the internet. For them, condition is paramount, and rarity and demand quickly follow.
• You mention Lowell, Mass. A library or other related org (historical society, for example) there may have an interest. Consider this re any pieces of the collection that refer to specific cites or regions.
• A respository of paper ephemera through the centuries (including this Almanac) is The American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass 01609; Americanantiquarian.org. They may be (best) able to provide some guidance or help you to establish the collection's value (or lack of), individually or as a whole.
• One seeming long shot that occurs to us is Google Books. The company has scanned millions of books (billions of pages?!) that are in public domain (that is, they are old)—although we can not help you to reach decision-making people there. But it might be worth a try.
Essentially, you need to find someone or ones that love/s these things as much as your dad did. Kudoes to you for trying! It's a great tribute. Good luck—

Mike, I would be interested

Mike, I would be interested in purchasing some of your father's collection. I have a fireproof safe, as well as safety deposit boxes. I could guarantee his preservation would not be in vain. Please contact me via email justin.w.mayes.mil@mail.mil (that's my Army email) or texasmayes@gmail.com (personal email). Thank you.

Journals Lowell

Dear Mike

Plese write to the University of Lowell. They have a huge archive collection if you might be willing to donate.

Lowell also has a huge Lowell historical Society and you can discuss this with them?

Thank you.

I'm in Ontario, Canada. Is

I'm in Ontario, Canada. Is this Almanac for North America or USA alone? If so is there one for Canada? I have never read an Almanac book but they sound fascinating.

Thank you

Thank you

I've been trying to find out

I've been trying to find out when roads and post roads of the continent were no longer listed in the Old Farmer's Almanac - with my subscription, I receive a copy of the magazine 100 years ago, and two hundred years ago - also, when did they begin listing the roads??? Thank You

Interesting question! It

The Editors's picture

Interesting question! It appears that "Roads to the principal towns on the Continent from Bofton [Boston] with Names of Inn-holders" was included in the very first issue, 1793.

After spot-checking later issues, it appears that some version of the Roads section of the Almanac, listing distances to well-known inns/taverns, appeared through 1845 (as "Roads, to some of the principal towns, with their distances from Boston. Notice: That the distances inserted are from one established tavern to another."

In 1846, the "Roads" disappeared, to be replaced by "Cities, Towns, and Villages passed through by Railroads from Boston, with the Distances of the various stations from that city." This feature continued through 1852. In 1853, it changed to "Railroads of New England, With Their Connections." This continued through 1856, and then that feature seems to have stopped.

Just wondering if there are

Just wondering if there are any complete collections of the "Old Farmer's Almanac" in a private or public collection? (1793-2013). I have all but the first edition (1793). That one is hard to find. I look at them quite often and enjoy the "personal" notes the owner's wrote on some of the pages. Have one where the total years income was $2.97. We don't know what hard times are!

Dale Wiley.

Hi Wiley, You have all but

The Editors's picture

Hi Wiley, You have all but the first almanac?! That is awe-inspiring. We do have the entire collection here at The Old Farmer's Almanac "headquarters" in Dublin, NH. You might also contact the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. They have a knowledgeable staff and are a great resource for information about such collectibles. Here is the link: http://www.americanantiquarian...

i found a 1793 no.1,in mint

i found a 1793 no.1,in mint codition[2074024266]

I have a nice 1936 edition i

I have a nice 1936 edition i think only 80,000 odd number where sold compared to 100 years prior.
This is an New York,New Jersey,Delaware,Pennsylvania,West Virginia.
Farmers Almanac 144th edition.What would you think it would be worth 70 pages i think in good condition with string marker attached.Also if you would be interested.
Thank you Rob

My daddy's name was santoy

My daddy's name was santoy shelton. He was born in 1937 in North Carolina and told me multiple times his name (santoy) came from the 1936 almanac. I have never met or heard of another santoy and was wondering how it was used in the almanac. Any help would be appreciated. I just always wondered.