Weather or Not: How Early Americans Recorded Their Climate in Almanacs

Joyce E. Chaplin

The Library Company of Philadelphia

Tuesday, July 27, 2021 5:30 pm EDT

Online Event

As we begin to consider climate change as an everyday problem, it’s valuable to know how people did that in the past. With support from the Library Company and the Guggenheim Foundation, Joyce Chaplin is compiling and analyzing a database of manuscript notes about weather in early American almanacs, 1646- 1821, out of 10,578 almanacs. Her talk focuses on how people recorded the weather in numbers (including degrees Fahrenheit) and in words, from “dull” to “elegant!” These notations are significant as records of a period of climate change, the Little Ice Age, and as records of how people understood and coped with that climatic disruption.
Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. A former Fulbright Scholar and Library Company Fellow, she’s taught at six universities on two continents, an island, and a peninsula, and in a maritime studies program on the Atlantic Ocean. Most recently, she is the author of The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (2006), finalist for a LA Times Book Prize and winner of the Annibel Jenkins Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and (with Alison Bashford) The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: Rereading the Essay on the Principle of Population (2016). Her work has been translated into French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Estonian, and, forthcoming, into Turkish and Chinese. She has written for the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times, and the London Review of Books. She is currently working on a history of conservation, climate change, and settler colonialism, “The Franklin Stove: Heat and Life in the Little Ice Age.” She tweets @JoyceChaplin1