What is an almanac?

An almanac is an annual publication that includes all sorts of important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables. Flipping through an almanac, you’ll be amazed to find tons of interesting information, such as weather predictions, the best dates for planting crops, when the sun will rise and set, the dates of eclipses and the times of tides. Almanacs even include such miscellaneous information as world records, population statistics, recipes, holiday trivia and predictions about trends in fashion, food, home decoration, technology and lifestyle for the upcoming year.

Banneker almanac title page

The oldest almanac in North America — The Old Farmer’s Almanac — has been published annually since 1792.  However, that wasn’t the only almanac printed in 1792. In that same year, Benjamin Banneker published his first of six annual Farmers’ Almanacs. Banneker’s almanacs included information on medicines and medical treatment, and listed tides, astronomical information, and eclipses, all calculated by Banneker himself.

 

Imagine: Nearly 100 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Benjamin Banneker was publishing an almanac full of data and statistics based on his own calculations! Absolutely remarkable!!! Banneker’s Almanac’s were compared favorable with Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richards’s Almanac. However, in 1802 he stopped publishing his Almanac due to poor sales.

 

Banneker lived for four years after his almanacs discontinued. He published a treatise on bees, did a mathematical study on the cycle of the seventeen-year locust, and became a pamphleteer for the anti-slavery movement. He continued scientific studies by night and walked his land by day…keeping his garden along the way. He hosted many distinguished scientists and artists of his day, and his visitors commented on his intelligence and on his knowledge of everything of importance that was happening in the country. As always, he remained precise and reflective in his conversations with others.

 

His last walk (with a friend) came on October 9, 1806, when he complained of being ill and went home to rest on his couch. He died later that day.

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