The Change of Calendars
By W. S.
A Calendar or Almanac is a list or
table of days and months throughout the year to denote the
division of time. Time is defined to be a part of duration or
existence, and Calendars are used to keep account of this period
of existence. Calendars have been used in some form by all
people, they have existed in the form of notchsticks and now are
made into good sized books, full of all kinds of information.
A year is the time that it requires
the Earth to make a revolution around the Sun. and there is more
than one way to measure this time, and the different ways do not
all give the same result, but the solar year has been determined
as the year and it is pronounced to be three hundred and
sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and forty-eight
A day, is the time in which the Earth
makes one revolution on its axis, the time from sun up until sun
up. A month was formerly considered the time between new moons,
which is about twenty-nine days and one-half day. This is called
the lunar month.
The time keepers and Calendar makers
tried to make all these divisions arranged together, the year,
the month and the day multiples of each other, but twelve lunar
months would not make a full year, and thirteen month's made
more than a year, and some of them placed a short month in the
year, every few years, to keep the months and the seasons in
So it was a difficult matter to
establish dates, in a manner that it could be told when an
incident transpired, whereby such date could be recorded.
Different nations adopted different times to begin to count
from, and they also had a different way in counting, and it was
a slow process in establishing a method by which the certainty
of dates could be ascertained, if it has yet been done
satisfactorily in reference to ancient incidents and
The Jews reckon from the beginning of
Creation, but we know not when they first began to use said date
or formed their first calendar. They evidently suppose that they
know it accurately as they give the time of the birth of Christ
from creation as 3,760 years and three months.
They had their year divided into
twelve months and occasionally placed in an extra month.
The Roman Calendar formerly had the
year divided into ten months, and they were as follows: The
first was called Martins, our March. The Second April is, April.
The third Mains, May, and the fourth Junius, June. The other
following months were named fertile numbers of the month, thus
for the fifth, Quint His; the sixth, Sextilis; the seventh,
September; the eighth, October; the ninth, November and the
Subsequently there were added two
others, February and January, but in 452 B. C. this order was
changed and January was placed before February, and then
February was the last month.
In 46 B. C. Julius Caesar reformed
the Calendar somewhat and he made Quintilis into July and
Sextilis into August, and made other changes. His Calendar has
since been known as the Julian Calendar, and new called the Old
Style to distinguish it from others. This continued in use until
the year 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII. promulgated a new
calendar, for the use of the Church, which was known as the
Gregorian Calendar or new style. This new style was adopted
generally by the Roman Catholic countries, but the Protestant
countries refused to accept it at first because it came from the
Pope. Scotland, however, adopted it in 1600, and the German
Protestant States, Denmark and Sweden about 1700. Religious
prejudice gave way to convenience and benefits.
England being engaged in commerce
with all the countries of the world, made use of the old style
and the new until 1751, when Lord Chesterfield, aided by several
scientific gentlemen, secured an Act of Parliament making the
change. This Act provided that the first day of January,
following December 31, 1751, should be the first day of the
year, before that time the year began with the 25th day of
March. It also provided that the natural day next immediately
following the 2nd day of September should be called the 14th day
of September, omitting for that time only the eleven days
intermediate nominal days of the common calendar.
This act was published in 24 Geo. 11
Ch. 23, and is also found in Hennings Statutes of Virginia, Vol.
1, page 393-4. It is said to have produced great excitement and
objection in England, and the members were threatened by a mob,
as they claimed they had been robbed of eleven good days, etc.
It was customary to refer to the dates of year between January
and March thus, 1637-8; 1742-3; and sometimes thus 174 2-3.
After the change was made, when former dates were referred to
the same was followed by O. S., to denote that the reference was
by the Old Style.
Washington was born February 11. 1832
O. S., but this has been dropped and now it is called February
22, 1732. Russia is the only Country that now uses the Julian
Calendar. France, in her days of Revolution, adopted an entirely
new calendar, but after the storm had passed, Napoleon, in 1806,
restored the Gregorian Calendar.
Books and Articles
Source: The West Virginia Historical
Magazine, Quarterly, Volume 3, January, Charleston, West