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Quick Timelines

How the Poem was Published
Moore Takes Credit
The Livingston Family Finds Out
Manuscripts and Publications
More Events

Henry reads his newly written poem to sons Charles and Sidney, and next door neighbor Eliza, who grows up to marry Charles.

A governess visiting the Livingstons takes a copy of the poem with her when she goes to work for a Moore family "down south." On the way, she stops off in NYC, and leaves a copy of the poem with Clement Moore.

Moore's own children are born from 1815-1826, so a governess for Moore's own children could also have brought the poem from Poughkeepsie between 1815 and Dec 1822.

One possible pathway: A Moore family "down south" did need a governess in this period. Henry's first cousin, Judith Newcomb Livingston, also lived next door to Henry. She married John Moore, the brother of Clement Moore's uncle. Judith and John's daughter Lydia had married Rev. William Henry Hart. From 1816-1829, Lydia and William's children were born in Richmond Hill, Virginia.

Dec 1822
Christmas - Clement Clarke Moore, who writes moralistic Christmas poems of his own, reads this poem to his children as his own, and tells them not to let it out of the house. But one of the children lets 12 year old Harriet Butler of Troy NY make a copy of the poem.

Dec 1822 - Dec 1823
Harriet Butler gives a copy of the poem to Mrs Daniel Sackett, who brings it to the Troy Sentinel, where it's published.

16 Jan 1828
AFTER Christmas, a copy of "Night Before Christmas" is published in the Poughkeepsie Journal still using the original Dutch reindeer names - Dunder and Blixem.

29 Feb 1828
Henry Livingston dies.

Judith and John Moore's granddaughter, Frances Livingston Hart, marries Rev. Clement Moore Butler, the younger brother of Harriet Butler

23 Dec 1823
"A Visit from St. Nicholas" is published in the Troy Sentinel

Dec 1830
"A Visit from St. Nicholas" is published in the Troy Sentinel with 55 changes made by the paper's editor from the 1823 version

Dec 1823-1844
Moore's children encourage their father to take credit for the poem

Moore's friend Charles Hoffman attributes the poem to Moore in his book "New-York Book of Poetry"

Moore writes to the publisher of the Troy Sentinel asking whether the publisher knew in 1823 who wrote the poem

26 Feb 1844
Norm Tuttle writes back to Moore saying he did not know then, but has since been informed it was Moore. Don Foster considered this "the coast is clear" letter. Enclosed with Tuttle's letter is the 1830 Troy Sentinel broadsheet on which Moore based his 1844 version of the poem.

Remember, the 1830 Troy Sentinel broadsheet differed from the 1823 Troy Sentinel original edition by 55 changes. I ask you, what author would take that many editorial changes without being forced?

Moore publishes the poem in his book "Poems"

4 Aug 1920
Winthrop P. Tryon publishes the first extensive argument for Henry Livingston as author of the poem in the Christian Science Monitor. (See also other articles)

20 Dec 1920
A Moore descendant obtains a deposition stating that Moore said he wrote the poem and, "when he came to publish the same, with some of his other poems, he only made two slight changes in the lines as originally written by him."

The "minor changes" were made from the extensively edited 1830 Troy Sentinel broadsheet, NOT from the original 1823 Troy Sentinel version.

Over the next almost 100 years, the attribution arguments are raised in publications, then forgotten, until the next round of arguments are again published and, again, forgotten.


1823-at least 1858/59
Even after Moore took credit for the poem, it was still being published anonymously, at least up to the 1858/59 version in the Art Journal.

Eliza Clement Brewer Livingston (1798-1868) is shown a copy of the poem attributing it to Moore. She tells her family that the mistake should be corrected, as Henry Livingston was the author of the verses. (See also witness letters) Eliza lived next door to the Livingston family and heard Henry recite the poem to his family. When Eliza grew up, she married Henry's son Charles.

Son Sidney Montgomery Livingston's family first learned in 1862 that Moore's name had been attached to the poem.


Henry Livingston wrote the poem, making corrections as he wrote, and read the poem to his children with the ink still wet upon the page.

Dec 1822
There is no Moore story of the existence of a manuscript in Moore's handwriting with original corrections. The closest thing to an explanation given is that the poem flowed so naturally that Moore made no corrections to the 56 line poem as he wrote.

16 Jan 1828
AFTER Christmas, a copy of "Night Before Christmas" is published in the Poughkeepsie Journal still using the original Dutch reindeer names - Dunder and Blixem. This might have been the one found by son Charles.

29 Feb 1828
Henry Livingston dies.

After Henry Livingston's death, up through the death of Jane Patterson Livingston, his second wife, the papers in Henry's desk were gone through by his children and the original manuscript of the poem, with corrections was found, according to Henry's daughter Eliza, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson.

The published version of the poem was taken back to Ohio by son Charles, and was locked in a particular drawer of his desk, and brought out and read by him for many years to family and friends. On his death, the newspaper was inherited by Charles' oldest daughter, Jane Livingston Hubbard, but was eventually lost.

The original corrected manuscript was burned in a Wisconsin house fire, according to the family stories that came down the line of Sidney and the line of daughter Catharine. It had been inherited by son Sidney, who gave it to his brother Edwin. Edwin moved to Wisconsin to live with his sister Susan.

More Timeline Events

Henry wishes his fiance a Happy Christmas, a phrase whose first publication occurs in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel A Visit from St. Nicholas
Henry publishes his first New Year's poem in newspaper
But now the end of all this clatter
Is but a small and trifling matter;
A puny six pence or a shilling
From willing souls to souls as willing
Henry publishes another of his many New Year's poems in newspaper
But now comes blithe Christmas, while just in his rear,
Advances our faint, jolly, laughing, New-Year,
Washington Irving notes in his diary that he goes to visit Platt in Whitesboro. Platt is Judge Jonas Platt, Henry's brother-in-law, as well as the mentor for Henry's son-in-law, Arthur Breese, who lives a few doors down from the Platts.
Henry reads the poem to sons Charles and Sidney, and little neighbor Eliza, who grows up to marry Charles.
Washington Irving writes of Santa Claus
Before 1822
A governess visiting the Livingstons takes a copy of the poem with her when she goes to work for a Moore family "down south." On the way, she stops off in NYC, and leaves a copy of the poem with Clement Moore. (Henry's first cousin lives close to Henry. She's married to John Moore, the brother of Clement Moore's uncle.)
Henry's New Year's Address is remarkably like the Christmas poem.
But hark what a clatter! the Jolly bells ringing,
The lads and lasses so jovially singing,
Tis New-Years they shout and then haul me along
In the midst of their merry-make Juvenile throng;
But I burst from their grasp: unforgetful of duty
To first pay obseisence to wisdom and Beauty,
My conscience and int'rest unite to command it,
And you, my kind PATRONS, deserve & demand it.
On your patience to trespass no longer I dare,
So bowing, I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Christmas - Moore, who writes moralistic Christmas poems of his own, reads this poem to his children as his own, but tells them not to let it out of the house. They do. (Moore later explains that no original version of the poem existed with crossouts because he composed the whole 56 line poem in his head and then wrote it down perfectly.)
Couple weeks later. Someone who got poem from child gives poem to Troy Sentinel as anonymous.
Poem goes into almanacs, so spreads like crazy. (It was McClure who changed Blixem's name to Blixen!)
Henry dies
After 1828
Son Charles finds a published version of poem among his father's papers. (May be one not found. May be Pough Journal publication of early 1828.) Son Sidney finds the original manuscript of the poem with corrections and crossouts.
Troy Sentinel publisher edits the poem massively and republishes it as broadsheet. BIG CHANGES: fixes awkward rhythm of reindeer names, but leaves original Dunder and Blixem. (This is source of current reindeer name rhythm.)
Charles and Eliza reads the poem to their daughter as written by Henry
Friend of Moore puts Moore's name on the poem. The friend changes Dunder to Donder, but keeps original awkward rhythm of reindeer names. (This is source of change of Dunder to Donder, latter to become Donner.)
Son Sidney reads the poem to his son as written by Henry
Moore asks Troy Sentinel publisher if he knew who wrote the poem when he published it. Norm Tuttle says he didn't. Includes a copy of his much changed 1830 broadsheet. Moore uses that copy as his base, and makes a few changes in it, including picking up his friend's Donder, and changing Blixen (who had had his name changed from Blixem, then Nixen) to Blitzen. Publishes it in his book POEMS. So the creation of the name Blitzen is Moore's only important change to the poem. (This is source of change of Blixem to Blitzen.)
Sidney dies and leaves original manuscript of poem to brother Edwin, who moves to Wisconsin.
Sarah Elizabeth Griswold's mother discovers a copy of the poem attributed to Moore. Son Edwin loses the poem manuscript in a Wisconsin house fire.
Sidney's family discovers poem with Moore's name on it.
After 1860
Family doesn't publicly proclaim Henry's authorship against Moore because Moore is high in the seminary of the Episcopalian Church, of which his father was a Bishop, and many of Henry's family are now ministers in the church, or married to ministers.
Moore dies.
Several lines of Henry's children begin to correspond and ask whether they can prove Henry's claim (including Catharine's descendants Anne Livingston Griswold and Cornelia Griswold Goodrich, as well as Catharine's half sisters Eliza and Helen). Decide they can't.
Son Sidney's son, Henry Livingston of Babylon LI, publishes Henry's claim in his own newspaper. No impact.
Daughter Jane's grandson William Sturgis Thomas becomes interested in search, gathers materials, convinces some people to publish in NYC papers. Seems to fall dud with no impact. But Moore descendant gets cousin to write deposition telling story of Moore's saying that when he, Moore, came to publish the poem in 1844 it only needed 2 small changes from the original way he wrote it.
William's son W. Stephen Thomas brings Vassar President MacCracken in as apologist for Henry. First Day Cover calls Henry the author. Then it's all forgotten.
Summer. Mary Van Deusen asks Don Foster to investigate authorship. He agrees on the condition she do underlying research work. She agrees.
Autumn. Stephen Livingston Thomas, the son of W. Stephen Thomas, arrives with his Thomas Collection of Henry Livingston material. Don comes to the conclusion that Henry is the probable author, based on comparing three people for style and literary influences - Henry Livingston, Clement Moore, and the author of the Christmas poem. Don also discovers a letter showing that before Moore publishes the poem, he asks the publisher of the Troy Sentinel if he knew the author of the poem before he published it. The publisher says no. Moore then publishes the poem among his other poems. Don calls the letter "the coast is clear letter."
October. Don puts his conclusions into a chapter of Author Unknown, and his book comes out to tremendous publicity (New York Times, People Magazine, the Today Show, etc).
Mary Van Deusen hears the story that the names of the reindeer were the names of the horses in Henry's stable. She also finds an entry in the diary of Washington Irving, credited with the "invention" of Santa Claus, showing that he knew Henry's brother-in-law, Jonas Platt (who lived next to Henry's daughter and son-in-law), around the time of Henry writing the poem and before the publication of "Knickerbocker's History of New York." Mary is contacted by a Moore/Livingston descendant and they together find that Henry's neighbor and first cousin is married to the brother of Clement Moore's uncle.
Mary Van Deusen discovers Moore's cousin's deposition saying that when he went to publish the poem in 1844, it only took 2 small changes from what he originally wrote. But with that deposition was also the original letter from the Troy Sentinel publisher and a copy of the publisher's 1830 version of the poem he first published in 1823. And on that copy are handwritten a few small changes! Because Mary collected early versions, on Don's request to look for influences on Moore's 1844 version, she knows that there weren't 2 small changes. There were 21! Tuttle massively edited the 1823 version in the 1830 version. The publisher neglected to mention that fact to Moore, who thought he had been given the original 1823 version.

Moore didn't know the difference between the 1823 and 1844 versions of "his poem" because he didn't write it!

December. Mary is contacted by an emeritus professor from New Zealand to work again on the attribution issue using statistical analysis. She agrees to help supply him with data to analyze, helped by Lyn, a retired name in computational linguistics, and husband Paul, a computer scientist/researcher with 50 years of computer work behind him.
December. We've put in almost a year of actual work on the attribution issues over the last two years, and hope that the researcher's publication will occur in 2014.

Fun Activities for Christmas
  65 TV Xmas Music Videos
  Antique Illustrations to musical NBC Recitation
  CBS Good Morning America, 2000
  Comic Book Poetry with antique postcards
  The Poem's Story in Anapest
  Antique Illustrated Editions
   Antique Santa Postcards
And after the fun, fall asleep to Clement Moore's Poetry

All Henry Livingston's Poetry,     All Clement Moore's Poetry     Historical Articles About Authorship

Many Ways to Read Henry Livingston's Poetry

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