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What is an Almanac? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson will talk about almanacs, a book where you can learn fascinating facts about all kinds of things! Learn how this book came about, why it was so important, and how it has changed over time.

What is an Almanac?

Where can you find the answer to the following questions?

  • Which professional football team won the Super Bowl?
  • How many people live in every state in the United States?
  • What are the names of the five tallest mountains in the world?

Today, your first thought might be to get on the internet and look them up, which would probably involve checking out different websites. But what about before the internet?

Sunrise
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There is one book with the answers to those questions and much moreā€”an almanac! An almanac is a book that is published annually, or every year, with a calendar and information about when the sun will set and rise, moon phases, ocean tides, and weather forecasts.

History of the Almanac

The first year that an almanac came out in print was in 1457. The books began showing up around Germany and England. As settlers came to North America from Europe, they also printed almanacs starting with an Almanac for New England for the Year 1639. Benjamin Franklin put together Poor Richard's Almanac for many years starting in 1732 using the name Richard Saunders. Franklin was funny and had a unique way of writing, so his almanac became very popular.

Cover almanac from 1733 by Benjamin Franklin
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At first, almanacs used astrology to make predictions about the future using the location of stars. Later, almanacs included calendars and weather forecasts and added more on astronomy, the study of outer space and the stars and planets. Almanacs had cool statistics, wise sayings, jokes, puzzles, recipes, travel tips, and even advice for making home remedies. Remember that this was a time when there were not a lot of different books or magazines to read. Almanacs were pocket-sized and meant to be carried around. People also used them to tell time.

Farmers depended on the books to know when to start farming. The Old Farmer's Almanac has been printed since 1792.

Picture of office of almanac publisher
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Another well-known almanac is the World Almanac and Book of Facts, which came out in 1868 with history and world facts. In 1923, President Warren Harding died and Calvin Coolidge needed to be sworn in as the next president. He looked up the oath of office in the World Almanac!

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