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Erika Hope Spencer, Reference Specialist, European Reading Room, Latin American, Caribbean & European Division
Keara Mickelson, Intern, European Division, Latin American, Caribbean & European Division
Created: August 1, 2019
Last Updated: June 11, 2021
Farmer's almanacs first appeared in France in the 16th century, and in America, in English, in the 17th century. The first French-American almanacs were published in the United States toward the middle of the 18th century. Although they were printed in French and were aimed at a French readership, the astronomical and meteorological information they contained was calculated for American cities. The sudden rise of French-American almanacs, which appeared under the names "almanach," "calendrier," or "annuaire," was due to several reasons. Undoubtedly, the presence of French soldiers in America during the American Revolution, followed by the influx of émigrés from France and its Caribbean colony of Saint Domingue during the French Revolution, contributed to this rise.
The French-American almanacs printed during this period bear witness to the exchange of revolutionary ideas on American soil. In Philadelphia, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, named Benjamin Franklin Bache, printed a French-language "Calendrier républicain" (1797), which we know as the French republican calendar. Initially created by the new Republican government after the French Revolution of 1789, it was used for about a decade. By using it, French politicians attempted to distance themselves from the "ancien régime" (old regime). Among other innovations, it assigned new names inspired by the natural world to the months of the year. Moving away from the revolutionary period into the 19th and 20th centuries, the focus of French-American almanacs shifted from ideology toward the everyday interests of the growing French and French-American communities spreading across the United States.
Many of these almanacs include directories of French-American businesses, churches, and organizations, as well as legal advice on how to acquire citizenship. Through these widely-read almanacs, which were often published yearly, we can trace the development of the French-American community in the United States for well over two centuries.
In addition to this guide to French-American almanacs, staff of the Library of Congress have produced several other detailed guides on French and Francophone resources. They are linked below.