The New Media Studio and Maryland Traditions have produced a short documentary on J. Gruber’s Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack. Maryland Traditions is the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org). On December 1st, 2012, Maryland Traditions honored the J. Gruber’s Hagers-town Town and Country Almanack with an Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Award in the category of Tradition. The film was shown at the award ceremony. The film also accompanied an article on the Almanack on the NY Times website on December 9, 2012.
J. Gruber’s Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack , or The Almanack, is the oldest almanac in the United States that is still produced by heirs of the original founder, John Gruber. Established in Hagerstown (Washington County), it has been providing agricultural, meteorological and astrological information for the Mid-Atlantic region since 1797. The Almanack, which also contains folk remedies, local poetry, and other forms of traditional community wisdom, was printed in German for its first 25 years, reflecting the fact that the language was still heavily used in the region. In 1822, as readership increased, an English language version of The Almanack was printed and the publication of both German and English editions continued for 100 years. It is the English version of the original publication that has continued through to today. Currently edited by the great-great-great-great great grandson of John Gruber, Charles W. Fisher, Jr., millions of copies have been sold and distributed, impacting a significant amount of farming families and agricultural communities. It is said that The Almanack has made Hagerstown widely known throughout the US and has given Maryland an ‘epicenter’ of farming and agricultural life. At its core is the tradition of forecasting next year’s weather, down to the very day, by using centuries-old astrological calculations, a process that is still continued by mathematician, Professor William O’Toole III of Emmitsburg. In recent years, other traditions have developed in association with the almanac, such as the annual Woolly Bear Contest, where caterpillar-like woolly bears are collected in large quantities so that a “complete and thorough analysis of their distinct markings can be made to determine how severe or mild the coming winter will be.”