Friday, December 01, 2006
I picked up a copy of J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack without realizing this Maryland annual is the second oldest continuously published periodical in the United States. Gruber's almanac first appeared in 1797 -- the year John Adams was inaugurated, Lord Nelson lost his arm, and Mary Shelley was born -- and still is published by the descendants of its founder, the titular John Gruber.
No longer, alas, does Gruber's almanac sponsor its annual Woolly Bear Contest, which once offered a $100 prize for the biggest woolly bear caterpillar. The goal was to examine the width of the black bands on as many woolly bears as possible to determine the severity of the coming winter; according to folk belief, the more black on the woolly bear, the worse the weather will be. In the last years of the contest, the number of woolly-bear entries had dropped off to practically nothing. (After all, when was the last time you went looking for woolly bears? J'accuse!)
I'm pleased to report, however, that the almanac still will predict the sex of your next child for a mere $5. This service is provided using the signs of the Zodiac according to the formula established by Hagerstown's own "Aunt" Lydia Cline, a retired nurse who died in 1973. The editors are careful to point out (on Page 61 of the current edition) that the prognostication works not with a first child, but only with successive children. Send the birthdate and gender of the first child, plus the aforementioned $5 and a self-addressed stamped envelope, to:
c/o The Gruber Almanack, LLC.
1120-C Professional Court
Hagerstown, MD 21741-0609
"While we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the predictions," the editors note, "be assured that 'Aunt Lydia' still maintains an accuracy of other 80%!"
Since you asked: The oldest continuously published periodical in the United States is The Old Farmer's Almanac out of Dublin, N.H., which first appeared in 1792. What blog will beat that?
Posted by Andy Duncan at 6:57 PM