You probably don’t realize it but the Old Farmer’s Almanac goes on sale every year on the 2nd Tuesday of September and farmers everywhere raced to get a copy. This is the oldest continuously published periodical in the U. S. It was first published in 1792 during George rWashington’s first term as president. The editor was Robert B. Thomas. It sold for six pence or nine cents a copy.
It originally carried the name of Farmer’s Almanac but the word “Old” was added to the title in 1848 after several other farmers almanacs came out by different companies. They didn’t want anyone to get confused.
Farmers and city dwellers alike have depended on the Old Farmer’s Almanac to know when to plant and what the weather for the next year will be like.
People living on the American Frontier used it as their Bible. It was indispensable. But how did this little book get things right for so long?
A man named Robert Thomas, founder and editor of those first editions, came up with a complex formula using his observations of natural weather cycles to predict the forecast. He was fascinated by science and at age 16 read Ferguson’s Astronomy. He had amazing predictions and was said to be uncannily accurate 80 percent of the time. (Even today, his formula is kept locked away at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.)
Only thirteen editors have headed this book since its existence, the latest of which is a woman who took the helm in 2000. Her name is Janice Stillman.
But the Almanac does much more than predict the weather. It has advice on gardening, cooking, and fishing in addition to lunar cycles, and horoscopes. Sometimes there is a blend of trivia and human interest stories and even recipes. You can find most anything in one of these books from anecdotes to fashion predictions for the coming year.
In 1942, the almanac came close to halting publication when a German spy came ashore on Long Island, New York and was apprehended by the FBI. They found a copy of the 1942 Old Farmer’s Almanac in his pocket. It appeared the Germans were using the Almanac as a source of weather forecasts because it was so accurate. Indirectly the book was supplying information to the enemy. The editor at the time quickly changed the format to only show weather indications, not forecasts, until the war ended.
Last September, they predicted that Texas and Oklahoma would have the driest winter on record and, Lord knows, that certainly came true. Here in the Texas Panhandle, we went 192 days without getting any moisture. It was broken about two weeks ago with .22. We’re having bad fires and dangerous winds. I certainly hope it starts raining soon.
Today the Old Farmer’s Almanac sells for $6.99 in paper print and $5.90 for the Kindle edition. There are folks who swear by the information inside each copy.
Wherever you are, I hope you’re getting the weather you want. Sometimes I think it’s gone haywire.
Have you ever used the weather forecasts to tell you when to plant or fish? Or maybe you like the horoscope readings.