This website is a companion to The Accidental Diarist, a biography of the daily planner and its customers from America’s founding into the 21st century.
Click on the thumbnails below, organized by chapter, to find out more about the amazing stories, diarists, and planners featured in the book. Discover the characters, gravestone hunts, true confessions, and serendipitous conversations that made the book possible. And check back often since this site is intended to be interactive with rotating content and an active blog that will reflect feedback and leads offered by readers.
The biography of the daily planner begins with America’s first bestseller: the almanac. A tool of time, the almanac urged many customers, including some Founding Fathers, to convert them into diaries.
Set in revolutionary-era Philadelphia, Chapter Two locates the birth of America’s first daily planner and explains why, for at least one aspiring American publisher, it proved to be a bust.
The daily planner takes off in the mid-19th century as an expanding economy and a culture of self-improvement turn a bust into a bestseller, the instigator of a diary revolution.
In the post-Civil War era, the daily planner goes national as a savvy set of entrepreneurs create a diary standard and deliver the stationery product into nearly every American home.
Chapter Five examines what happens when the daily planner becomes a sales vehicle in the early 20th century when department store magnate John Wanamaker adopts the popular format to sell his wares.