Farmers Almanacs Vie for Readers: 2 Top Tomes of Nostalgia, Wit, Weather Forecasts Have about 5 Million Each

Article excerpt

The war of the almanacs begins Tuesday.

That's when the 1998 Farmers' Almanac debuts across America with its good cheer, homespun wisdom and weather prognostications.

But what's this? Three weeks later, the 1998 Old Farmer's Almanac will hit bookstore shelves across America, filled with its good cheer, homespun wisdom and weather prognostications.

The two publications are scrapping over millions of readers who pore over blizzards, full moons, woolly caterpillars and prize tomatoes with gusto. Both almanacs sport the hand-tinted look of a vintage volume, with much ado about the placement of their apostrophes.

But folks still mix them up.

To add to the confusion, there are a peck of other almanacs around the country as well - Hagerstown Town & Country Almanac, Almanac for Farmers & City Folk, Albemarle Almanac, Ford Almanac, Blum's Almanac and Americana Annual, among others.

"A lot of people woke up about 10 years ago, saw what we did and wanted a piece of it," said Tim Clark, executive editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac in Dublin, N.H.

"They come and go like mayflies, claiming to be 100 years old when they're only an hour and half old."

The Old Farmer's Almanac really is old - the oldest in the country, in fact, established in 1792.

"But there's been an almanac war going on for 200 years," Mr. Clark added. "When we were founded, there were 18 almanacs in Boston alone. We were the imitators then - so we don't get too pious about it."

They do, however, get fretful.

Last Friday, the office issued an alert to journalists: "Don't be fooled by other so-called Farmer's Almanacs that may cross your desk in the coming days or weeks. If it doesn't have the word `Old' in the title and `by Robert B. Thomas' just below it, you've probably got your hands on an almanac-come-lately. …