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Crowdfunding / History / International

This revolutionary French Republican calendar is coming to life via Kickstarter

Liberté, égalité, étrangeté!

Ursula Lawrence is the woman behind @JacobinCalendar on Twitter. (Courtesy photo)

There are some things which are good and this is one of them.

Ursula Lawrence is creating a Jacobin calendar, which should come as no surprise, as she’s tweeted the day, month, and year of the obscure, radical, French Revolution attempt at a new calendar each day for the past three years.

“I learned about it a long time ago. I think my dad told me about it in high school,” Lawrence said by phone the other day. “I was talking to my husband about it and just started doing it. It was always something I liked and would tell people about.”


Now, she’s teamed up with Brooklyn-based (Ursula, too, was Brooklyn-based for 10 years until a few weeks ago) graphic designer Scott McCracken to create a real, beautifully illustrated Jacobin calendar people can use or just look at. To pay for it, she’s raising $10,000 on Kickstarter.
Support by Aug. 13

As a primer on the Jacobin calendar, Lawrence wrote a short essay in 2012, explaining some of its tenets:

The revolutionaries decided that the old system of naming months for Greek gods and days for Catholic saints smacked of the Ancien Régime and religious superstition and simply would not do. Instead, they named each month after the environmental condition with which it most corresponds (Snowy! Hot! Harvest Time!). They then designated each day a particular fruit, vegetable, herb or mineral… One month was comprised of three ten-day weeks. Days were 10 hours long and hours were made up of 100 minutes. A minute lasted 100 seconds. French radicals, drunk on that certain je ne sais quoi of enlightenment rationality, were totally into the metric system. They were so drunk, in fact, that their new system actually modified the fundamental length of a second. Seconds got shorter precisely because hours got longer. 10 hours in a day with one hundred one-hundred-second-minutes each, meant that an hour would have taken about 145 “normal” minutes while a second was just .864 times the length of a conventional second. New clocks were manufactured to display decimal time, but weirdly, did not sell well.

Although she’s amused and enjoys the calendar, Lawrence says she’s by no means an expert.

“I don’t really know much about the French Revolution and I don’t speak French and I’m by no means a francophile,” she said. “Some people who take this seriously have emailed me in the past two weeks who are really into this telling me no one would say it’s goat day or rabbit day and I’m like ‘Yeah, I get that, but…’”

Ultimately, the calendar met the same fate as the revolution. In 1799, a wily revolutionary general named Napoleon Bonaparte launched a coup d’état on 18 Brumaire err, November 19, and the revolution was effectively over. The calendar went with it, exiled to the endnotes of history until its triumphant return, here in the Twitter Republic.

Companies: Kickstarter
Series: Brooklyn

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