The Old Farmer's Almanac is 225 years old

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This is the first Farmer's Almanac for 1793. Note: it wasn't called the "old" almanac for about 50 years. (Source: Royal Norman) This is the first Farmer's Almanac for 1793. Note: it wasn't called the "old" almanac for about 50 years. (Source: Royal Norman)
Here's the forecast for snow on Dec. 28, 1793, made more than 12 months ahead of time. (Source: Royal Norman) Here's the forecast for snow on Dec. 28, 1793, made more than 12 months ahead of time. (Source: Royal Norman)
The 1700, 1800 and 1900 annual almanacs. (Source: Royal Norman) The 1700, 1800 and 1900 annual almanacs. (Source: Royal Norman)
The 225th Anniversary Old Farmer's Almanac. (Source: Royal Norman) The 225th Anniversary Old Farmer's Almanac. (Source: Royal Norman)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

For each of the past 225 years, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has been published.

However, Robert Bailey Thomas’s first version, for the year 1793, was just called the “Farmer’s Almanack” with that old spelling. It only got the “old” part added on when a competitor started calling themselves, “The Farmer’s Almanac” in the early 1800s.

Thomas, who told his story many times, was a late entry into almanac publishing. Such annual ephemera were one of the mainstays of early publishing in England and in the colonies. By the time Thomas got started, the U.S. was already a country and dozens of almanacs had come and gone. His would not be one to vanish quickly.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Weather blog]

It’s fun to look back at some of what’s published in that first Farmer’s Almanack. The bulk of the information, in calendar form, was astronomical in nature; full moons, eclipses, that sort of thing.

Also included were weather forecasts for New England. The Boston area in particular where Thomas got started. And even though he had no formal training in the fledgling field of meteorology (who did?), he offered this prediction in issue number one on his predictions:

As to my judgment of the weather, I need say but little; for you will in one year’s time, without any assistance of mine, very easily discover how near I have come to the truth.

Okay, that’s pretty confident. He did predict snow on Dec. 28, 1793, but I scoured the records and I can’t tell you whether he was right or not. Weather reporting was haphazard then at best.

There’s also lots of practical advice for a wide variety of topics, including cures for consumptive coughs, how to kill worms in horses and raising hemp. Thomas reports 13 rules for a long life, including this odd one: After coming out of bed, you should never go to look out of the window.

Huh?

Near the end of his first almanac, Thomas includes a math quiz with six questions including this randomness: What sum of money would be gained by one farthing put out for a thousand years at interest upon interest at 6 percent? Then he tells readers he’ll give them the answer in a year.

What?

Boy, times were different. Wait a year for the answer? We can't wait until the next news block on TV.

By the way, he did supply the answers the following year. To the question above the answer is 16,735,115,744,074,074,074,074,040 farthings, or rounded off, 16 octillion farthings.

However, the most impressive numbers of all are here. In that first year, 1792, when he published the 1793 Almanack, Thomas made 3,000 copies. He sold out and there are only about six of those originals known to exist. This year, it’s reported more than four million copies of the Old Farmer’s Almanac were sold.

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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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