J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, November 08, 2015

“Make Application before the said first Day of November”

Here’s a glimpse of Ames’s Almanack for 1766. Usually almanacs were published at the end of the preceding year, sometimes reprinted in the first couple of weeks of the year they covered.

The 1766 almanacs, however, would then fall under the provisions of the Stamp Act, taking effect on 1 Nov 1765. Some printers therefore moved up their publishing schedules so they could sell copies without needing stamped paper.

Richard and Samuel Draper advertised this almanac in early September issues of their Boston News-Letter. Its second page summarized the part of the Stamp Act that applied to almanacs and then warned:
Those Persons who are desirous of being furnished with this Almanack, are requested to make Application before the said first Day of November, as the Price after that Time will be more than double what it is now.
(Incidentally, the author of this almanac wasn’t Dr. Nathaniel Ames of Dedham, despite its title. Instead, it was probably Joseph Willard [1738-1804] credited as “a late Student of Harvard-College.” Ames had published with the Draper family in the past, but this year he either didn’t like being rushed or chose to go with other printers, so the Drapers just pirated his name. But hey—they were taking a moral stand against the Stamp Act!)

Harvard professor John Winthrop (or his wife Hannah, but I think it was John) bought a copy of this almanac, presumably before November. It became part of the couple’s papers in the collections of Harvard University.

And now that university is digitizing this almanac and all its seventeenth- and eighteenth-century documents to create the Colonial North American Project at Harvard University, as reported here. The Winthrops’ artifacts are also part of a new exhibit at the Pusey Library called “Opening New Worlds.” And both the online resource and the exhibit are free to all.

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