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Rusty Garrett meets Poor Richard

by Beth Farwell, Associate Director for Central Libraries

It was a dark and stormy night.

Actually, it was a perfectly sunny day. A day clearly conjured up by our guest and chief weather anchor for KWTX News 10, Rusty Garrett. Traveling a short distance to Baylor campus, Mr. Garrett visited Moody Library and traveled a long distance back in time to the 18th century when weather news was packaged in small paper almanacs.

Rusty Garrett is the perfect host to introduce you to these fascinating historical and rare documents. I predict fair weather ahead.

Mr. Garrett reads Poor Richard
Mr. Garrett reads Poor Richard
Who is Rusty Garrett?

Rusty Garrett has been a member of the KWTX team since 1989 and a student of weather science and broadcasting since high school. His wife Ann is a local schoolteacher and they are the proud parents of a son, Will, who is an Air Force Dental Tech stationed in San Antonio at Lackland Air Force Base.
Mr. Garrett has worked tirelessly to better the Central Texas community through volunteer work, fund raising, and successful family weather safety programs. Rusty is also active in the Masonic fraternity. He holds a 32nd degree endowed membership in the Scottish and York Rites and in 2007 was installed as District Deputy Grand Master for The Grand Lodge of Texas. He is Past Master of Waco’s Fidelis Masonic Lodge #1127.

A few hundred years earlier, another Masonic member was busy in his Philadelphia print shop. Ben Franklin (1706-1790) began printing his famous “Poor Richard’s Almanack” in 1733.

Rusty & Beth investigate almanacs
Rusty & Beth investigate almanacs

Who is Poor Richard?
“Poor Richard” is a title used by Ben Franklin from his pseudonym Richard Saunders.

What is an almanac?
In addition to weather predictions, an 18th century almanac was a book or table that had a practical use as a calendar, church festivals, astrological notes, miscellaneous literary works, and weather guides with seasonal suggestions for farmers. These were the least expensive kinds of books to print and were often produced in large quantities. For many homes, the almanac was one of few printed books owned and these became highly influential and popular modes of communication.
The origins of almanacs could be traced back to 3000 B.C. with the pyramids, time tables and calendars with the beginnings of astronomy.

Mr. Garrett & Poor Richard
Mr. Garrett & Poor Richard

Throughout the Baylor Libraries’ collections, there are numerous forms of almanacs spanning centuries. Almanacs published in colonial America are particularly interesting containing statistics, proverbs, medical advice and remedies, and even poetry. While a very practical tool for farmers, it served as an information source and entertainment in homes where print owned materials were scarce.

What is Rusty looking at?
Baylor Libraries has original almanacs from two of the most famous almanac publishers during this time period.
Nathaniel Ames Almanac 1741
Nathaniel Ames Almanac 1741

Nathaniel Ames was a physician and student of astronomy. Living in Dedham Massachussetts, Ames published The Astronomical Diary and Almanack in 1725 until his death in 1764. While we don’t have direct evidence of quantity, paper companies have estimated that Ames’ almanacs printed no less than 60,000 copies annually. Baylor Libraries' original is dated 1741. You can view the original by making an appointment or see the entire almanac online in our Baylor Digital Collections Click here

Poor Richard's Almanac 1761
Poor Richard's Almanac 1761
Another original document is a 1761 Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard almanac. In addition to seeing the original here in the library, you can also view this one in our Digital Collections Click here

Franklin’s almanac has significant potential for researchers. This particular year in 1761 contains four introductory pages discussing the importance of small pox inoculations and other medical advice. Earlier, Franklin had dismissed the importance of inoculations but became an advocate following the loss of his son to small pox at age 4 in 1736. Other pages contain his well-known proverbs woven tightly into the chart. See if you can find this proverb found on page 20: “Fear can keep a Man out of Danger, but Courage only can support him in it.”
Ben's proverb
Ben's proverb


Even the title pages are interesting. Compare the Ames to the Franklin and you can see the political atmosphere and the lack of a “nod” to King George.

By the early 1800s there were approximately 500 various almanac titles published. Around this time, Robert Thomas established the Farmer’s Almanac which has changed very little since then.

As you can see, these almanacs are rich with history. Rusty and I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a few of Baylor’s treasures. Please stop by in person or stroll through our Digital Collections. I wonder what Ben would think of his almanac viewed on the internet?

For more information, please visit our webpage:
https://www.baylor.edu/lib/centralspecialcollections/

1820 almanac
1820 almanac


Many thanks to Mr. Garrett for taking time out of a busy schedule to help highlight these treasures. And a big thank you to Ben Johansen for his mad awesome photography skills!

6 thoughts on “Rusty Garrett meets Poor Richard

  1. Rusty Garrett

    What a trip back in time for this 'ol forecaster! The opportunity to peruse these rare documents in such a comfortable atmosphere was a joy! Baylor's Moody library is a local treasure and I encourage any and all history buffs, like myself, to make a journey there!

  2. Hal Farwell

    Ben got his start as a satirist when he predicted the death of his rival almanac publisher. The rival made the mistake of insisting he was alive. That just opened the floodgates of more comedy for Ben. Soon everyone was reading Ben's almanac and few reading that of his rival.

  3. Tim Herlihy

    You know what's really funny Hal is that anything passes off for being real these days. I'm just surprise that pieces of history still exist with meaning. With or without meaning this country has headed in a right direction with its current memories which isn't being tossed around like a rag doll needing to be replaced.

    I thought of something similar to these parchments and I would stand with the fore fathers in dividing any failed documents that didn't express individuality. So in conclusion, I believe I need to spend more time studying relic beyond America History to understand more About cause and effect.

    Good luck

  4. beth_farwell

    Yes! Ben's pseudonym "Richard Saunders" was based on Jonathan Swifts' pseudonum, Isaac Bickerstaff. In a well known satiric "media frenzy" of the day (1708), 'Bickerstaff' predicts the demise of astrologer, John Partridge. John Partridge had predicted the deaths of various anti-Whig notables earlier in his career. Franklin picked all of this up and worked in some of his own predictions which continued the 'game' - It's all quite interesting - but sometimes hard to keep up with who said what about whom. : )

  5. beth_farwell

    Exactly, Mr. Herlihy -- working with primary, original resources is a practice we encourage in any library. Keep thinking! Beth

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