We continue to traverse, untired, the cross-roads, lanes, and by-ways of the green fields of earth, and the blue vault of heaven, in our annual perigrinations and researches after the philosophers' stone, the elixir of life, and the future-disclosing tablets of the sibyls; in hopes to attain the power and skill of teaching the world how to acquire riches without effort, preserve youth and health without decay, and truly anticipate time, whose 'Coming events cast their shadows before.'– Editorial address, The Maine Farmers' Almanac, 1826
The history of almanacs in America dates back to 1639, when the first almanac printed in the colonies was compiled by Captain William Pierce¹. The earliest extant American almanac was published at Harvard College in 1646, the first in a series published by the college annually until 1676, when John Foster published the first extant almanac outside of Harvard².
Over the next century, driven by rising public demand and low production costs, the number of almanac published continued to increase. By 1800, the number of different almanacs produced annually in the United States exceeded 125, with an estimated half a million volumes printed each year³. Readers consulted the almanacs for information on everything from weather, tides, and eclipses to health advice to dates of court sessions and distances between towns.
This exhibit showcases New England almanacs from Tisch Library Special Collections, spanning the years 1752 to 1887. To view full versions of the almanacs in this exhibit, use the URL in each exhibit item to visit the almanac in the Tufts Digital Library.
¹Robert Tolbert Sidwell, “The Colonial American Almanacs: A Study in Non-Institutional Education” (Educat.D. dissertation, Rutgers, New Brunswick, 1965), 1.
²Madeleine Hudson, “Future Events We unto Thee Impart’: A Transatlantic Examination of Almanacs in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries” (Masters thesis, Tufts University, 2015), 54, 59.
³Peter Eisenstadt, “Almanacs and the Disenchantment of Early America,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 65 no. 2 (2000): 147.