Honest Abe's Honest Almanac
A Cornucopia of Amazing Facts, Useful Wisdom,
and Amusing Anecdotes Concerning the Social, Political, Economic, Educational, and Cultural
Life of Springfield, Illinois, Past and Present, etc.
You owe no one an apology for not having heard of the Almanac. Very few were printed, and it quickly disappeared from the two or three shops where it was sold.
Honest Abe's Honest Almanac has long since fallen out of copyright protection. Only the paper edition conveys the feeling I intended, but I've not seen it online in the stock of any used bookshop. It remains in the public domain, and now lives
forever on the internet.
The project was a youthful folly of the sort to which I am still prone. In those days I collected odd facts the way that velvet collects dog hair. I thought it would be fun to collect odd facts about Springfield into a parody almanac. I had naive hopes of selling them to the tourists, who didn't bite, thus proving again that Lincoln—"You can't fool all of the people"—was a savvy marketer. I wasn't. I even forgot to put my name on the cover.
It was published under the imprint of Talisman Press, my “company,” which I named after the steamboat that traveled up the Sangamon from Beardstown, promising a new era of river commerce, only to be forced to chug back in reverse when the river fell.
I had no capital, so to cover the cost of typesetting and printing I shamelessly hit up friends and associates for cash donations. They were upright citizens—among them were a university professor and an insurance company executive, which made me doubt everything I was brought up to believe about business and education—and I did not embarrass them in print by revealing their names.
The result was 64 pages on newsprint I titled, Honest Abe's Honest Almanac. It is the sort of publication that gets shelved under “Satire and Facetia” by any librarian worth her free parking space, but which could just as accurately have been described as Sophomoria. It was a youthful blend of antic humor and local history and not very successful as either.
The introduction conveys the tenor of the thing:
While it was a takeoff, I tried to make the facts within it legit. Errors there were, but they were inadvertent. The modern adjectival sense was apparently derived from the use of inexpensive shoddy (“‘fabric from wool-processing byproduct’”) for unsuitable applications such as for military uniforms at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. I mistakenly inferred that the term originated with the Springfield Woolen Mills.
Careless as a researcher I might have been, and innocent as an historian I certainly was, but dishonest, no.
HAHA—you must believe me that I was unconscious of the aptness of the acronym—can be downloaded for free by anyone with a computer internet link and more time to waste than is healthy. The good folks at Open Library have made it available online. So has the Internet Archive, which offers a faithful facsimile here.
Someday I might have the time to post it here as a PDF. Readers have some recourse. I was amused and annoyed to learn that the almanac has been reissued in the UK by Forgotten Books as part of its—get this—Classic Reprint Series. Dear readers, understand that I don't get a penny of that. Also, Amazon is peddling it as a Kindle book.
I'm grateful that it can be enjoyed in any form, I guess, but nothing can replace that delicious tang of decaying newsprint that you get with an original copy. ■
It is appropriate at this point for an editor to explain to his readers why it is that his book exists. Whether its purpose is to enable its readers to treat their neighbors with more consistent courtesy, or lead a happier and more fruitful life, or cultivate a more productive garden, books of this sort are supposed to serve some instructive end. Sadly, Honest Abe's Honest Almanac does not. The most thorough reading of the pages contained herein will not make the conscientious reader one whit more happy, prosperous, or wise. At best, a reading of this small collection will take his mind off the troublesome present for at least a little while, and that is reason enough for a book to exist.