American Almanacs

By Jean Williams and Christian Goodwillie

Hamilton College holds one of the best collections of American Almanacs in the country. Dating from the colonial period through the late nineteenth century, these popular publications informed locals about the calendar, civic holidays, court dates, elections, and even proffered agricultural advice, astrological portents, and jokes. Hamilton's collection was built over many years and was sorted in a preliminary way by April Caprak, and subsequently Christian Goodwillie and some summer students. Finally, as of this summer, a small but dedicated group from the Library Technical Services Team has completed cataloging the entire collection of 2,063 rare 18th and 19th century American almanacs.

Cindy Savage, Jean Williams and Shelley Moses began this work in January 2012 with A.L. Scovill & Co.'s Farmers' & Mechanics' Almanac for 1865, and finished in August 2014 with The York County almanac for the year of our Lord 1876. Altogether Hamilton's Library Technical Services created 403 original records in OCLC for Almanacs in our collection, a fact that speaks to the amount of extremely rare, or possibly unique, material we hold. The collection includes several works by Josh Billings (pseudonym of Hamilton College alumnus Henry Wheeler Shaw, Class of 1837), including a humorous almanac titled Josh Billings' Farmer's allminax, for the year of our Lord 1874: being the 98th year ov Amerikan librerty, and over 5 thousand years, (if I dont disremember rong) since Adam did the bizzness for us, in the gardin ov Eden.

Anyone curious about the times of the rising and setting of the sun in 1776 should ask Mark Tillson in Archives and Special Collections to retrieve An almanack, and ephemeris, for the year of our Lord 1776.

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