daniel leeds: way-back great-grampa the almanac-maker

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, 2018 Edition:  Week 48 (November 26-December 2).  Prompt, “Next to Last.”
Born in the next-to-last month of the year, an ancestor the writer in me finds fascinating:  the almanac-maker & writer, Daniel Leeds…
Daniel LEEDS, among my 8th-great-grandfathers and, my closest immigrant Leeds ancestor, compiled “the first almanacs in this country, in 1687, continuing until 1716, when his sons Felix and Titan succeeded him,”1 and with whom [Titan] fellow almanac-maker Benjamin Franklin himself engaged in an ongoing feud.

“Benjamin Franklin published a highly successful, yearly almanac from 1732 to 1758,” reads a Hoaxes.org piece.2  “He called it Poor Richard’s Almanac, adopting the literary persona of ‘Poor’ Richard Saunders, who was supposedly a hen-pecked, poverty-stricken scholar.

“In the first year of its publication, Franklin included a prediction stating that rival almanac-writer Titan Leeds would die on ‘Oct. 17, 1733, 3:29 P.M., at the very instant of the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury.’ “

Although the prediction was intended as a joke, Titan Leeds was not amused.

“Franklin responded by turning the death of Leeds into a running joke.  When the date and time of the prediction arrived, and Leeds did not die, Franklin declared that Leeds actually had died, but that someone had usurped his name and was now using it to falsely publish his almanac.”2

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  To get back to Great-Grandpapa Daniel LEEDS:  Daniel was the second son of Thomas LEEDS (1620 England–1687 Province of New Jersey) & Mary3 (Anna4) CARTWRIGHT3 (1621 England–1677 either Province of New Jersey or, back in England).  Born Nov. 15, 1651 in Leeds, Engfland,4 Daniel immigrated to America in 1676 on the ship “Shield,” landing at Burlington, Province of New Jersey.1

Clara Louise Humeston has Daniel marrying four times:  “1st, [Unknown]; 2nd Ann STACY; 3rd Dorothy YOUNG; 4th Jean SMOUT5 [“Smout” being Jean’s surname by a prior marriage; I’m still researching her maiden name].  Of these, Dorothy YOUNG is she whom I call 8th Great-Grandmum and, is mother to Daniel’s sons / my great-granduncles Felix & Titan who joined him in the almanac business.

Daniel & Dorothy married Dec. 4, 1682 in Burlington, Province of New Jersey.6  “As early as 1694 Daniel ‘located land’ in Great Egg Harbor” and in 1698 surveyed it, later calling it Leeds’ Point and with his family, settling on it:  it was “the highest point of land on the coast from the Highlands to the Capes of Virginia.”1

“Amidst the hardships incident to pioneer life in this sparsely settled locality, Daniel found time and inclination to serve his State, having held several important offices.  He was the first Surveyor General of West Jersey, having for a time the assistance of his son Bethanah.”

Blue Mountain Books notes that Daniel LEEDS, “….became one of the first Deputy Surveyors of West Jersey and subsequently the second Surveyor General of West Jersey, positions he held from 1681 to 1713.  A member of the West Jersey Assembly in 1682, he was also a judge in Burlington County from 1692 to 1694.”7

How I would love to see a copy of Daniel’s first almanac, but this 1694 image is the earliest I could find online…

By the time Daniel Leeds began his almanac, the format had become essentially fixed:  a title page, a page of eclipses, general calendar information, calendar pages with appropriate verse, and a formal essay on science, religion, or history,” writes Marion Barber Stowell.  “Leeds added more variety.  His standard almanacs also included addresses to the reader; news of religious groups, fairs, and courts; narratives, accounts, and anecdotes; interspersed sayings on calendar pages; and verse scattered from the first through the last page.8

“Leeds completed the conversion of the rather technical document that the Harvard Philomaths established to what became, and has remained, the still living farmers’ almanac-however senescent its present state.  The humor that obviously delighted the colonial farmer continued the tradition of English country humor that had surfaced in the mother country.  This humor was homely, earthy, and rather coarse.  It reflected, at its highest, the level of comic perception we associate with the British squirearchy rather than with the nobility.  The level in the American colonies was certainly no higher.  A peasant shrewdness surfaces in what wit there was.  Indeed, the native propensity for wit was fed often by the almanackers’ inveterate habit of literary borrowing and paraphrase (without acknowledgement) from the productions of their English colleagues.”8

“Bawdy jingles erupt with regularity” in old almanacs, writes Marion Barber Stowell.  This bit of blue verse, from a 1714 almanac by Daniel LEEDS:

” ‘The Weather’s hot, days burning eye
” ‘Doth make the earth in favour frye,
” ‘Dick on the Hay doth tumble Nell,
” ‘Whereby her Belly comes to swell.
” ‘The Dog star now we hot do find,
” ‘And some have Dog tricks in their mind.”8

“Daniel Leeds was using maxims in his almanac forty years before Franklin’s Poor Richard.  For example, in 1710, ‘We think lawyers to be Wise, but they know us to be Fools.’  In 1712 a Leeds jingle informs us that poor ‘Will Woodcock’ is spending all his money on lawsuits.  He lost one case:

” ‘Another which he hoped to have try’d, / ‘Is by Demurrer at present laid aside: / ‘Nothing effected, only all his Money, / ‘Is by the Lawyers swallowed down like Honey.  And Poor Will can muse, ‘as now he fells his Hay, Next Court will take his Cattle, too, away.’ “8

I descend from Daniel LEEDS‘ & Dorothy YOUNG‘s eldest son, Japheth (1683–1736), who married Deborah SMITH (1685–1747), dubiously given in legend as the mother of the Jersey Devil.

Cover of Daniel LEEDS’ 1713 Almanack.

In addition to his almanacs, Daniel LEEDS authored several books, among them, The Temple of Wisdom.  He died Sept 28, 1720 in Springfield, Burlington County, Province of New Jersey; he is buried at  Saint Mary’s Episcopal Churchyard (aka Saint Mary’s Cemetery), Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey, USA.

Hall, John F., The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and County, New Jersey: Containing Sketches of the Past and Present of Atlantic City and County, 1900, Daily Union Printing Company, Atlantic City, New Jersey, accessed November, 2018,  at https://archive.org/stream/dailyunionhistor00inhall/dailyunionhistor00inhall_djvu.txt .
Hoaxes.org, “The Death of Titan Leeds,” accessed November, 2018,  at http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_death_of_titan_leeds .
FindAGrave.com, memorial no. 74947559, “Mary Cartwright Leeds,” accessed November, 2018,  at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/74947559 .
West, Edmund, comp., Family Data Collection – Births {database on-line}. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001:  “Name: Daniel Leeds; Father: Thomas Leeds; Mother: Anna; Birth Date: 15 Nov 1651; City: Leeds;” accessed November, 2018,  at https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=5769&h=2716358&ssrc=pt&tid=79831532&pid=34512926990&usePUB=true .
Humeston, Clara Louise, “LEEDS: A New Jersey Family. Its Beginning and a Branchlet,” accessed November, 2018, at https://archive.org/stream/leedsnewjerseyfa00hume/leedsnewjerseyfa00hume_djvu.txt .
Ancestry.com, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 {database on-line}. Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014; accessed November, 2018, at https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2189&h=99574072&ssrc=pt&tid=79831532&pid=34512927265&usePUB=true .
Blue Mountain Books at http://www.bluemountainbooks.com/product/177105/LEEDS-1713-THE-AMERICAN-ALMANACK–Fitted-to-the-Latitude-of-40-Degrees-and-a-Meridian-of-five-hours-West-from-London-but-may-without-sensible-error-serve-all-the-adjacent-places-even-from-Newfound-Land-to-Carolina-By-Daniel-Leeds-Philomat-Leeds-Daniel-1652-1720 , accessed November, 2018. 
Stowell, Marion Barber, “Humor in Colonial Almanacs,” Studies in American Humor, vol. 3, no. 1, 1976, pp. 34–47.  Retrieved November, 2018, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/42573098?read-now=1&seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents .

This entry was posted in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2018 Edition, Ancestry, CARTWRIGHT, Family HIstory, Genealogy, LEEDS, Province of New Jersey, Quakers, YOUNG and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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