Presenting more highlights from The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s 225 years of continuous publication!
The 2017 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac marks its quasquibicentennial anniversary. No small word for no small achievement: The term means “a quarter [century] more than 200 years” and refers to this Almanac’s 225 years of continuous publication—a record unmatched by any other periodical in North America.
People often ask us how and why the “little yellow book” (the inspiration for this monthly missive) has lasted so long. Luck has played a big role. Here are a few such serendipitous situations, excerpted from the 2017 Almanac.
1792: Robert Bailey Thomas publishes The Farmer’s Almanac for 1793, “containing as great a variety as any other Almanac of new, useful, and entertaining matter.” Also this year, the cornerstone for the U.S. president’s mansion is laid in Washington, D.C.; George Washington is unanimously re-elected to his second term as president; and the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, produces the Birch cent, with the head of Liberty on one side and a wreath on the other.
1803: After a courtship of 13 years, Thomas marries Hannah Beaman.
1815: Thomas is ill with influenza. His Boston printers send a boy to his bedside in Sterling, Massachusetts, for the July weather forecast. “Tell the printer to print anything he wishes,” he tells the boy. Thus, the printer sets “Rain, Hail, and Snow” for July 13, 1816. When Thomas recovers, he is furious and tries to call in every single printed sheet. However, a few escape. When, in July 1816, rain, hail, and snow do fall, people experience “The Year Without a Summer” and Thomas’s Almanac moves into the supremacy it has held ever since.
1847: With “deep and heartfelt regret,” Almanac publishers announce the passing of Robert B. Thomas on May 19, 1846, at age 80: “Prior to Mr. T’s death, arrangements were made to continue the Almanac through the present century, at least.”
1862–66: A “chronological record of events connected with the rise and progress of the rebellion against the national government [the Civil War] commencing November 1860, [appears] in the Calendar Pages” and continues through the conflict.
1932: A hole is punched in the corner. (Until now, readers made their own hole.)
1944: “With the Almanac staff at present in the armed forces or in war service, this edition [was] born in the all too few hours of evenings and Sundays … in candlelight.”
1956: A woodcut image of Father Time created for the 1809 edition by Abel Bowen, “Boston’s first professional woodcut artist,” appears on page 1. Bowen’s “work in the OFA antedates all other woodcuts revealed in any other almanac today.”
1967: Weather forecasts appear for five U.S. climatic regions: New England, Eastern States, Midwestern States, Western and Mountain States, Southern States.
1980: The Almanac page size increases to its current dimensions.
1989: A survey says that 9 million people read the Almanac each year.
1995: “A good number of letters received last year—and every year—are addressed to Robert B. Thomas, who has, of course, been resting peacefully in the cemetery at Sterling, Massachusetts, for almost 150 years. But no matter.”
2010: The Almanac joins Facebook; by 2016, it has 1.4 million friends. Activity on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and Tumblr follows.
2017: This year will mark the Almanac’s 225th edition, thanks to generations of fans and enthusiasts.
Join the Party
To learn more about this Almanac, see replica pages of the 1793 edition, and read Robert B. Thomas’s story in his own words, buy The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac Collector’s Edition in traditional print or get the digital edition for your tablet, computer, or phone.