History of The World Almanac

Bill Clinton working in his White House office, with a copy of the World Almanac behind him
New York Times
Bill Clinton working in his White House office, with a copy of the World Almanac behind him.

The World Almanac® and Book of Facts is an American institution that millions of people have turned to for 150 years. Ever since the first edition was published in 1868, it has been improved, revised, expanded, and updated to keep up with the changing world. Accuracy, adaptability, tradition, and innovation are the qualities that make the award-winning World Almanac the best-selling reference book available. It contains millions of easily accessible facts in compact form.

Here is a brief overview of the history of The World Almanac, along with a few interesting facts:

  • The first edition of The World Almanac was published by The New York World newspaper in 1868 (the name of the publication comes from the newspaper itself, which was known as "The World"). Published just three years after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, its 120 pages of information touched on such events as the process of Reconstruction and the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.
  • Publication was suspended in 1876, but in 1886 famed newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who had purchased The New York World and quickly transformed it into one of the most influential newspapers in the country, revived The World Almanac with the intention of making it "a compendium of universal knowledge." The World Almanac has been published annually ever since.
  • In 1894, when it claimed more than a half-million "habitual users," The World Almanac changed its name to The World Almanac and Encyclopedia. This was the title it kept until 1923, when it became The World Almanac and Book of Facts, the name it bears today.
  • During World War II, The World Almanac could boast that it was read by U.S. troops all over the world: between 1944 and 1946, at the request of the U.S. government, The World Almanac had special print runs of 100,000 to 150,000 made especially for distribution to the armed forces.
  • In 1961, a wire service photograph showed President Kennedy sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office and on his desk were six books: the only reference book was The World Almanac. Almost 40 years later, a 1999 New York Times photo showed President Clinton in almost the exact same position in the Oval Office. Clearly visible on the desk behind him was a copy of The World Almanac. And Kennedy and Clinton weren’t the only U.S. presidents who relied on The World Almanac: at Franklin Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park, NY, a reproduction of his White House desk included a copy of The World Almanac 1945.
  • The World Almanac is the bestselling U.S. reference book of all time, with more than 82 million copies sold since it was first published in 1868.
  • The World Almanac became a household name in a number of films and TV shows. Fred MacMurray talks about it with Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity; Bette Davis screams about it in All About Eve; Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper flirt about it in Love in the Afternoon; it is featured in Miracle on 34th Street when a trial is held to see if Santa Claus really exists; Rosie Perez studies it in the film White Men Can't Jump; and Will Smith consulted it to avoid predatory “darkseekers” in I Am Legend. Stephen Colbert used it on The Colbert Report to research a new home state after South Carolina voters elected another candidate over his sister in a 2013 congressional special election. The World Almanac also makes frequent appearances as a source or category on Jeopardy!—and as a resource for contestants preparing for that show.
  • The World Almanac is available in print in various formats, as an e-book for most devices, and as a subscriber site for schools and libraries.
  • Follow The World Almanac on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your daily dose of facts and trivia.
The World Almanac and Book of Facts