Skip Navigation Bar
 
side bar
Early Days Heyday of the Patent Medicine Almanac Almanacs at NLM Credits
Banner for Time, Tide, and Tonics: The Patent Medicine Almanac in America written in green letters

Early Days

Almanacs have been a part of American life since its very beginning. One of the first books printed in English America was an almanac. By the mid-18th century the almanac had become, after the Bible, the book most likely to be found in ordinary homes. Produced annually, almanacs provided practical information and entertainment.

Calendar

The main feature was a calendar which showed the months and days, the positions of the moon and the planets, religious and civil commemorations, and weather predictions, sometimes decorated with an illustration of a seasonal scene or the sign of the zodiac. Medieval almanacs showed the church’s feast and fast days. The American almanac calendar recorded religious commemorations, but added court days, civic holidays, and the dates of historical events.

The Almanach in der hochebreysten Hochen Schule zu Erffort from 1493 which  features a calendar showing the months and days, the positions of the moon and the planets, religious and civil commemorations, and weather predictions. Jakob Honiger. Almanach in der hochebreysten Hochen Schule zu Erffort... auff das M.CCCC.XCIIII Iar gecalculyret. [Nuremberg : Caspar Hochfeder, 1493?]

A Medieval almanac showing the church’s feast and fast days. The side borders feature scultures of religious figures while the bottom features a woman milking a cow in a field. Grimani Breviary. fol. 6r; fol. 10r Biblioteca Marciana, Venice


The October 1789 page from The New England Almanack, or, Lady’s and Gentleman’s Diary. This page shows not only the calendar but recorded religious commemorations, court days, civic holidays, and the dates of historical events. The New England Almanack, or, Lady’s and Gentleman’s Diary, for the year of Our Lord Christ 1789... by Isaac Bickerstaff... Providence : Printed and sold... by John Carter, 1788.

The Thomas' Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Newhampshire & Vermont Almanack open to show two pages. These pages which feature the May calendar also shows recorded religious commemorations,  and the dates of historical events. Thomas' Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Newhampshire & Vermont Almanack... for the Year of Our Lord 1792. Printed at Worcester, by Isaiah Thomas, 1791.


"Man of Signs"

“The man of signs,” a nude figure with abdominal organs exposed and surrounded by signs of the zodiac, dates back to the Middle Ages. The zodiac signs are linked to the part of the body which they governed and, in conjunction with the calendar, illustrated the days on which blood-letting should not be performed on specific parts of the body.

Human figure with the parts of the body identified with signs of the zodiac. Joannes de Ketham. Incipit fasciculus medicine. Venice, 1500.

Human figure with the parts of the body identified with signs of the zodiac. Hans Kaspar Wolf. Lassbüchlin sampt der Schrybtafel, Mässen, und Jarmarckten, uffs Jar M.D.LXXVII. Zürich, 1577.


A page from The New York Farmer's Almanac showing the anatomy of man's bod as governed by the twleve constellations. The New York Farmer's Almanac... 1818. New-York, 1817.

Page 4 of The Ladies Birthday Almanac for 1996. It is a two column page with the left column being advertisements and the right page showing the signs of the zodiac and the corresponding area on the human body. The Ladies Birthday Almanac. 1996. Chattanooga, TN : Published by Chattem, 1995.


Health Information

Almanacs have included health information, particularly on blood-letting, from their beginning. The 18th century many contained brief articles on medical subjects.

The cover of Hans Kaspar Wolf's Lassbüchlin sampt der Schrybtafel featuring the title in red lettering above a woodcut of a man sitting in a chair while a man standing beside him performs a blood-letting. Hans Kaspar Wolf. Lassbüchlin sampt der Schrybtafel, Mässen, und Jarmarckten, uffs Jar M.D.LXXVII. Zürich, 1577.

A Medieval almanac showing the church’s feast and fast days. The side borders feature scultures of religious figures while the bottom features a woman milking a cow in a field. Grimani Breviary. fol. 6r; fol. 10r. Biblioteca Marciana, Venice


A page from An Astronomical Diary, or, An Almanack featuring an essay upon regimen. An Astronomical Diary, or, An Almanack, for the Year of Our Lord Christ, 1754... by Nathaniel Ames. Boston, New-England : Printed by J. Draper, 1753.

A page from An Astronomical Diary, or, An Almanack featuring two articles. The top article is on different coins and the bottom article is on the small pox. An Astronomical Diary, or An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord Christ 1761... by Nathaniel Ames. Boston : Printed by John Draper, et al., 1760.


"Home Use"

The almanac was commonly provided with a cord or metal loop, so it could be hung on a hook or nail, probably in the kitchen. It made a handy place to jot down notes on weather, daily activities, and, occasionally, historical events.

The August almanac page from Astronomical Diary, or, An Almanack, for the Year of Our Lord Christ, 1754... by Nathaniel Ames. At the bottom is written War proclaimed at Boston 4th of this month. The Astronomical Diary, or, an Almanack for the Year of Our Lord Christ 1756... by Nathaniel Ames. Boston : Printed by J. Draper, 1755

The MacDonald’s Farmers Almanac open to show the pages featuring April 1945. Handwritten notes cover both pages about events for the month. MacDonald’s Farmers Almanac. 1945. Binghamton, N.Y. : The Atlas Printing Co., 1944.


An Astronomical Diary</em></strong>, or, An Almanack showing the page for May 1754 with notations in the margins. An Astronomical Diary, or, An Almanack, for the Year of Our Lord Christ, 1754... by Nathaniel Ames. Boston, New-England : Printed by J. Draper, 1753

The cover of New-York Farmer's Almanac for 1818 with a cord loop in the top left corner, so it could be hung on a hook or nail. The New-York Farmer's Almanac, for the Year of Our Lord 1818. New-York : Printed and Published by Charles N. Baldwin, 1818


Miscellaneous Contents

A table of the tides, court schedules, advice on health and agricultural activities were often included. Aphoristic sayings, such as “Time and tide wait for no man,” provided secular wisdom, while anecdotes, jokes, and, later, amusing pictures, provided entertainment.

The England Almanack open to show two pages. The left page discusses the rules of observation while the right page is a table showing the difference of high water at several places from New-London. The England Almanack, for... 1817. New-London, 1816.

The New England Farmer's Diary and Almanack for 1821 open to show the Courts in the State of Vermont schedule. The New England Farmer's Diary and Almanack for... 1821. Windsor, Vt., 1820.


The New England Almack and Gentleman and Ladies' Diary for 1802 open to show two pages of jokes and ancedotes. The New England Almack and Gentleman and Ladies' Diary for... 1802. New-London, 1801


First American Almanacs

The first printed almanacs were simple publications with no illustrations or a few crude woodcuts.

The cover of the New York Medical Almanac and Repository of Useful Science and Amusement for 1827 with a woodcut illustration a person with a horse caring for a man lying on the ground with wounds on their body. The New York Medical Almanac and Repository of Useful Science and Amusement, for the Year 1827. New York : Printed by Samuel Marks, 1826

The cover for An Astronomical Diary, or An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord Christ 1761 ... by Nathaniel Ames featuring an illustration of a smiling sun near the top. An Astronomical Diary, or An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord Christ 1761 ... by Nathaniel Ames. Boston : Printed by John Draper, et al., 1760.


The cover of Tulley, 1701. An Almanack for the yar of our Lord 1701. Around the edges is a stamped design of a fleur d'lis. Tulley, 1701. An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord, 1701... by John Tulley. Boston : Printed by B. Green & J. Allen, 1701.

The cover of Jayne's Medical Almanac, and guide to health, for the year 1849. A woodcut of the women and children of a household near a medicine cabinet. Jayne's Medical Almanac and Guide to Health, for the Year 1849... Philadelphia: Printed by Stanely & McCalla... 1849.


Full Text Almanacs

Note: Large files, will load slowly.