VARIOUS WAYS OF LEARNING ABOUT HENRY:
quick and easy; lots of pictures
"A Mouse in Henry Livingston's House"
extensive book with footnotes
chronological, includes surrounding events
extensively illustrated minibooks
Henry's handwritten book of poetry
his daughter's handwritten book of poetry
around 6500 separate pages - Site Map
IMPORTANT CHRISTMAS POEM PAGES:
Timeline Summary of the Christmas Poem story
Original Published Version of Poem, 1823
Don Foster's 'Author Unknown'
Mac Jackson's Statistical Analysis
NY Times and People Magazine
Scholars for Henry
First Use of 'Happy Christmas' Phrase, 1773
THE CHRISTMAS POEM:
15 years before the famous Christmas poem ever saw the
light of a Troy day, Henry Livingston's children heard their father recite it to the family as one
of his own composition. Three people remember Henry coming out from his writing den under the staircase
and reading them that never-to-be-forgotten poem. And after Henry was dead, and
the poem become famous - long before Moore ever took credit for their father's poem - those same children
were reading it to their children and proudly telling them that it had been written
by their grandfather.
It was another 15 years after Moore took credit for Henry's poem that Henry's family
discovered Moore's claim.
Having taken early retirement from IBM Research,
I brought my research skills and dogged determination to Don Foster and convinced him to look into the matter.
Talk about watching your life turn left!
Quest to Prove Authorship,
Clement Moore's Poetry,
We have to admit that we can't solve the quizzes that Henry wrote in
his own poems - his rebuses. The only rebus for which we have a solution
is one we have from Dutchess County Historian Helen Wilkinson Reynolds.
So we've come up with a way to let YOU help! We've turned Henry's rebus
poems into games of Hangman.
We've answered some of the lines, and you can send us the ones you think you've solved, or correct the ones
we've gotten wrong.
In case you're not sure how a rebus works, we've included two brand new ones
(Rebus 1, Rebus 2)
that will solve to pop culture answers.
Good luck, Henry Researchers!
A few years ago, I led a candlelight procession that ended with my reading of the Christmas poem.
I stopped on the stairs of the Morse house to read the poem, and found myself looking out at the place where Henry's
house once stood. It fronted the same lawn that the Morse house views and, as I recited the line about "the
moon on the breast of the new fall'n snow", the streetlamps
along the road cast a pool of light onto the snow, and it suddenly hit home that my 5th great grandfather had
looked out his window, and had seen a scene much like the one I was looking at when he imagined those famous lines.
It was as though
his Santa might actually come flying
down to land on the lawn, searching in vain for that long gone stone chimney.
I got goosebumps!
I started this whole authorship quest to find my father's poetry,
but it quickly became a 24/7 problem to solve. Nice to find the emotional part wasn't totally lost
beneath the intellectual.
People Magazine Article
Henry Livingston (1748-1828) lived his entire life in Poughkeepsie NY.
Unlike his famous theologian brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, and his more political brother, Gilbert Livingston,
Henry wanted a quiet life, close to the land and the river where he was born. While his sisters married more political animals
(Gen. Melancthon Lloyd Woolsey and unsuccessful gubenatorial candidate Jonas Platt), Henry stayed home on his Locust Grove estate, joyfully raising a large family in an atmosphere
of learning, writing, drawing and music. He left when he had to -- for the Revolutionary War, for surveying jobs, to check
out a college for a son. And, of course, he spent a good bit of time attending the theater in the City.
Timeline and Events,
Owners of Locust Grove
Don Foster looked for the stylistic qualities and literary influences in Henry, Clement Moore,
and in the Christmas poet.
What Don discovered was that the style of Henry and the Christmas poet were similar, and the same writers influenced them both.
As for Moore, his work was completely different in style and influence.
1791 New-York Magazine,
Carrier Address Examples
When news of the Battle of Bunker Hill hit New York, Henry joined his cousin Janet's husband, General Richard Montgomery, in his expedition to invade Canada.
Henry was Major of the newly formed 3rd New York, under the
immediate command of Colonel James Clinton, the brother of Governor George Clinton and father of Governor
DeWitt Clinton. Years
later, Henry would reuse the style of his war journal in a humorous sendup of a newly found journal of Alexander the Great.
Journal of Alexander the Great,
Henry rarely had less than three sources of income simultaneously: his farm, his surveying, and some political
position. The farm he received in 1771, when he was 23 years of age.
When Henry came back from his six months service as Major of the 3rd New York, he received
the political appointment of Commissioner of Sequestration, responsible for confiscating, appraising, and selling or renting
the property of Loyalists. After the war, he was named Principle Assessor, Coroner, and Justice of the Peace, the position
which gave him the title of "Judge." Through his
surveying experience, he also picked up other jobs on the side, becoming land agent for John Jacob Astor's suit against New York
state for confiscating the land of Roger Morris and his wife, Mary Philipse. Henry also became Supervisor of the Post Road
Turnpike that passed by his property.
HEAR THE POEM TO ANTIQUE ILLUSTRATIONS:
Listen to The Trail Band reciting Night Before Christmas while watching images from my collection of
The Santas in these postcards differ somewhat from the ones we see
today in that they often show the nasty side of Santa.
ANTIQUE ILLUSTRATED EDITIONS:
While Christmas has always been a favorite subject of artists, A Visit From St. Nicholas has been
When Henry wasn't writing funny little poems or prose pieces, he was drawing. In watercolors, Henry's work is primitive with respect to people, but
right on when it came to birds and animals. He would use these drawings to illuminate the maps that
accompanied his surveys. But when Henry's art was transformed into etchings for publication, they
stiffened into the rigid drawings so common in magazine illustrations of the time.
Besides a manuscript book of his original poems, Henry left behind a 207 page music manuscript book of the popular
songs and hymns of the period, copied from publications and from other local manuscript books. Thanks to the book's
inheritor, Steve Thomas, that manuscript and other documents were made available for research from The Thomas Collection.
It's in this book that Don found songs from John O'Keefe, a writer whose use of "snug" is identified as one of the
Christmas poet's literary influences.
A favorite source of Henry's is Sheridan's The Duenna.
Many of the hymn and psalms lyrics in Henry's manuscript book appear later in his brother John Henry's book of Psalms and
Hymns. There are some anonymous hymns in John Henry's book that have been loosely attributed to "Livingston." This
looks to be a fruitful future research area for those interested in both Henry and John Henry.
From the time the
Livingston family first went public with the truth in 1899, there have been articles
written on the authorship issue. Before the Internet, those articles would just come
and go, and be forgotten. But today they can be collected and made available for those
looking to learn about this issue for themselves.
Night Before Christmas,
Don Foster writes with a skill that leaves me in awe. My thanks to those who send clippings.
LETTERS ABOUT HENRY and the SITE:
I can't tell you how exciting it is to hear from people who turn out to be my cousins,
and from people who turn out to become my friends. The earliest letters were passed on to me by Don Foster.
Until I started researching Henry's genealogy for Don, as an tool to find other research materials, I never
realized how sexist genealogy actually is! Professors of history tend to get lazy and make use of the books of
genealogists. Genealogists tend to be descendants who want to leave behind the history of their surname. So when
you get into a family book, it traces all the male descendants, but stops as soon as a daughter marries out of the name.
Then you get the historian coming in and making conclusions about the descendants of someone when, in actuality, they're
making conclusions about the MALE descendants of that person. Luckily, there aren't any sexists here in Henry Land,
so you're going to be perfectly happy to recognize that famous descendants of Henry's grandfather Gilbert include
Livingstons like Rev. John Henry Livingston, but also other people of other surnames like Governor Hamilton Fish,
General Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, General Philip Van Cortlandt, Nicholas William Stuyvesant,
Lt. Governor Stephen Van Rensselaer, Mayor Philip Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Presidents George Bush!
Henry's direct descendants include Generals Henry Livingston Lansing, Henry Seymour Lansing and Robert L. Denig Sr and Jr; Illinois Chief
Justice and Senator Sidney Breese; Senator Elisha Kane; Archdeacon William Reed Thomas and Admiral Samuel Livingston Breese.
Women of the family - like Patricia Morse McNeely - are just beginning to get their due.
Descendants of Robert,