New England Almanacs

Authors and audience

Harvard University published the first almanacs in the colonies from 1646 to 1676, predominantly written by Harvard students. In 1676 John Foster published the first extant almanac outside of Harvard, and as increasing numbers of publishers entered the field, the popularity of the Harvard almanacs declined¹.

Authors and printers of these later almanacs generally came from the artisan class: a literate but not elite group of people who could select material that would appeal to a wide audience. They were nearly all white, male, and predominantly Christian². A 1756 South Carolina almanac is notable for being perhaps the only colonial American almanac to contain a contribution by a female author³, though by the end of the eighteenth century, it was possible to find some female and black voices in almanacs⁴.


The early colonial American almanacs printed at Harvard emphasized astronomy, learning, and Puritan doctrine, and were seemingly targeted towards the Cambridge and Boston elite, rather than the general public. Later almanacs began to include elements such as holidays, weather predictions, and humor to appeal to a wider audience⁵˒⁶.

As almanac production proliferated, their affordability led to popularity among readers at all levels of economic means. Thus, almanacs were read by both men and women and by people across a range of wealth, education, occupations, and geographic locations⁷.

A New Map of the World with the Latest Discoveries, from the Clergyman's Almanack, 1811

¹Madeleine 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.

²Thomas A. Horrocks, “Rules, Remedies, and Regimens: Almanacs and Popular Medicine in Early America” (PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2003), 9, 196.

³Robert Tolbert Sidwell, “The Colonial American Almanacs: A Study in Non-Institutional Education” (Educat.D. dissertation, Rutgers, New Brunswick, 1965), 271.

⁴Marion Barber Stowell, Early American Almanacs ; the Colonial Weekday Bible (New York: B. Franklin, 1977), 276.

⁵Hudson, "Future Events," 54, 76.

⁶Horrocks, "Rules, Remedies, and Regimens," 4.

⁷Horrocks, "Rules, Remedies, and Regimens," 9, 12.