Henry Livingston Henry Livingston Henry Livingston
Henry Livingston

Mac comes down for Henry
X Mac Jackson's Statistical Authorship Analysis
Arguments for Henry's authorship        Henry's Poetry        Moore's Poetry X
X First Publication        Smoking Gun?        Happy Christmas        Reindeer Names        Timeline X
X Henry by Slideshow        Henry by Book        X


Was shocked to discover that Henry's father-in-law ALSO wrote poetry. Rev. Noah Welles was a close friend throughout his life with a Yale schoolmate, NJ Governor William Livingston. Apparently Noah wrote a poetic intro to Livingston's epic poem, "Philosophic Solitude, or, The Choice of a Rural Life." I've also transcribed two of Noah's sermons: Patriotism Described and Recommended and a Funeral Sermon for the minister who gave the sermon at Noah's ordination.

A simple farmer as the Christmas poet?  Well, not quite.  You can learn a lot about someone by the company they keep, so meet the extended family that surrounded Henry.   Brother John Henry, the famous theologian who graduated Yale at 16 and was the President of Rutgers.    Uncle Pierre Van Cortlandt, Lt. Governor of NY for 17 years.   Founding Father John Jay who wanted his son to stay with Henry while Jay was in Spain as ambassador.

This isn't the first time that scholars and Livingston descendants have brought the authorship conflict before the public.  Skim through the newspaper and magazine articles on this topic reaching back to the turn of the 20th century.

A music video of 'Night Before Christmas' put to antique illustrations of the poem.

A new illustrated book is the first to put Henry's name on the cover as the author of the poem, following in the footsteps of an animated movie giving Henry the credit.

Page thru scans from the 1791 'New-York Magazine or Literary Repository' of around 20 pieces of prose and some poetry by Henry.

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Music,    Sources,    Publicity,    Letters,    Genealogy,    Biographies
Henry Book


        quick and easy; lots of pictures

         "A Mouse in Henry Livingston's House"
        extensive book with footnotes

         chronological, includes surrounding events

Henry's Poetry
        extensively illustrated minibooks
        Henry's handwritten book of poetry
        his daughter's handwritten book of poetry

This Website
         around 6500 separate pages - Site Map

Holding Up Santa


Timeline Summary of the Christmas Poem story

Smoking Gun?

Reindeer Names

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

Holding Up Santa

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!

Timeline Summary
Smoking Gun?,   Quest to Prove Authorship,   Scholars,
Witnesses,   Early Variants, Clement Moore's Poetry,   Fiction,
Arguments,   First Publication,   Reindeer Names
Henry Livingston

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!

Picture Quiz,   Puzzle Quiz,   Rebus Quiz

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.

Genealogy,   Biography,   Resume,   Personal Website,   People Magazine Article
Henry Livingston

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.

About Henry,   Timeline and Events,   Owners of Locust Grove
Santa with Book

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.

Brother Beekman Alexander the Great
Aids to Beauty Memoirs of a Pine Tree
Without Distinction Maelstroom - Ghost Story
Careless Philosopher Of the Honey-Dew
God is Love Medicine for the Soul
Rebus of a Beauty Origins of English
Excuse of a Hog Farmer Life on Other Planets
To Miss Rewarding a Horse Thief

Poetry,   Carrier Addresses,   Moore's Poetry,   Prose,   Letters
1791 New-York Magazine,   Carrier Address Examples
Revolutionary War

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.

Henry's Journal,   Journal of Alexander the Great,   Washington Inauguration,
Erie Canal,   Clermont,   Lafayette  
Blacksmith Santa

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.

Farmer,   Surveyor,   Political Positions,   Judge

Listen to The Trail Band reciting Night Before Christmas while watching images from my collection of antique illustrations.

The Santas in these postcards differ somewhat from the ones we see today in that they often show the nasty side of Santa.

Scandanavian Biplane
Adoring Deer NOT Sugar Plums

While Christmas has always been a favorite subject of artists, A Visit From St. Nicholas has been absolutely inspirational.

Margaret Evans Price 1917 McLaughlin 1907
McLaughlin 1896 Gabriel 1911

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.

Watercolors Sawmill
Panther Eagle

Postcards,   Maps,   Watercolors,   Published Engravings

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.

Farewell to Lochaber Amo Amas
When Sable Night
      * Henry's Source *
Birks of Envermay
      * Henry's Source *
Song in the Duenna
      * Henry's Source *
Had I A Heart
      * Henry's Source *
Yankee Doodle Deel Take the Wars
Cherokee Chiefs Livingston's March
Ladies Breast Knot A Rose Tree in Full Bearing
Tweed Side Rosalind Castle
Sukie Bids Me Successful Campaign
Dans Votre Lit Guardian Angels

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.

Historian Benson Lossing 1886
Henry Livingston, grandson's claim 1899
Cornelia Goodrich, granddaughter 1900
Mary Montgomery, great2granddau 1917
Mary Hewins, greatgranddau 1917
Lavinia Haugen, granddau 1917
Jeanne Denig, greatgranddau 1918
Jeanne Denig, greatgranddau 1918
Dr. Thomas, greatgrandson 1919
Christian Science Monitor 1920
World Telegram 1944
Julia T. Livingston, granddau 1945
Vassar Pres. MacCracken 1958
American Heritage 1974
Chicago Tribune 1976
First Day Cover 1977
Don Foster 2000

Night Before Christmas,   Livingston Family,   Research Institutions

Don Foster writes with a skill that leaves me in awe. My thanks to those who send clippings.

NY Times 2000
People Magazine 2000
LA Times 2000
Washington Post 2000
Poughkeepsie Journal 2003
Today in Literature 2003
Boston Globe 2011

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,   Henry's Place,   Portraits,   Biographies
Latest News,    Christmas Poem,    Games,    Personal,    The Man,    Writing,    History,    Work,    Illustrations,   
Music,    Sources,    Publicity,    Letters,    Genealogy,    Biographies
Site Map

And, like the Energizer Bunny, his cousins keep going and going and going...

WivesAncestorsUncles and Aunts

Sarah Welles

Jane McLean Patterson


Catharine Livingston

Henry Welles Livingston

Cornelia Livingston

Henry Welles Livingston

Dr. Charles P. Livingston

Sidney M. Livingston

Edwin G. Livingston

Jane P. Livingston

Helen P. Livingston

Elizabeth D. Livingston

Susan C. Livingston

Catherine B. Livingston


Rev. William Baudertius

Rev. Gerard Beekman
+ Agnes Stunning

Henry Beekman
+ Mary Baudertius

Rev. John Livingston
+ Janet Fleming

Mayor William Beekman
+ Catalina de Boogh

Colonel Philip Schuyler
+ Margaretta
van Slichtenhorst

Robert Livingston, 1st Lord
+ Alida Schuyler

Hendrick Beekman
+ Joanna Lopers

Gilbert Livingston
+ Cornelia Beekman

Rev. Benjamin Woolsey
+ Abigail Taylor

Henry Livingston, Sr.
+ Susannah Conklin

Rev. Dr. Noah Welles
+ Abigail Woolsey


Brother Gilbert
+ Catharine Crannell

Brother Rev. John Henry
+ Sarah Livingston

Sister Cornelia
+ Myndert Van Kleeck

Sister Joanna
+ Paul Schenck

Sister Susan
+ Gerardus Duyckinck:

Brother Robert Henry
+ Caty Tappan
Caty's Brother's poem

Brother Beekman
+ Catharine Marsh

Sister Helena
+ Judge Jonas Platt

Sister Alida
+ General M.L. Woolsey

Sister-in-law Mary
+ John Davenport


Col. Henry A. Livingston
+ Elizabeth Beekman3

Cmdr Melancthon T. Woolsey
+ Susan Cornelia Tredwell

Susan Platt
+ Judge Richard R. Lansing
(also son-in-law)

Joanna Schenck
+ Matthew Mesier

Elizabeth Livingston
+ Rev. George Boyd

Sarah Livingston
+ Justice Smith Thompson
(also son-in-law)


Colonel Henry Beekman
+ Janet Livingston
+ Gertrude Van Cortlandt

Lt. Governor Pierre Van Cortlandt
+ Joanna Livingston

Sheriff James Livingston
+ Judith Newcomb

Margaret Livingston
+ Peter S. Stuyvesant

Alida Livingston
+ Colonel Jacob Rutsen:
+ Henry Van Rensselaer


24 Henry Livingstons
26 Catherine Livingstons

Robert 'The Nephew' Livingston1-2x
+ Margaretta Schuyler

Signer Philip Livingston1-1x
+ Christiana Ten Broeck

Governor William Livingston1-1x
+ Susannah French

Col. Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord1-1x
+ Mary Thong

Maj.Gen. William Alexander, Lord Stirling
+ Sarah Livingston1-2x

John Moore
+ Judith Newcomb Livingston1

John Reade
+ Catharine Livingston1

Dr. Baltus Van Kleeck
Major Andrew Billings
+ Cornelia Livingston1

Yale Pres. Timothy Dwight
+ Mary Woolsey1

Peter Van Brugh Livingstone1-2x
+ Mary Alexander

James Duane
+ Mary Livingston1-3x

John Jay3
+ Sarah Livingston2

Chancellor Livingston2
+ Elizabeth Stevens

Mayor Edward Livingston2
+ Mary McEvers

General Montgomery
+ Janet Livingston2

General Philip Schuyler2
+ Catharine Van Rensselaer3

Alexander Hamilton
+ Elizabeth Schuyler3

Lt. Gov. S. Van Rensselaer1
+ Margaret Schuyler3

Mayor Philip Schuyler Van Rensselaer3
+ Anne De Peyster Van Cortlandt1

Brig.Gen. Philip Van Cortlandt1

President George Walker Bush1

Fun Activities for Christmas
Page Through Antique Illustrated Editions of Night Before Christmas
View Antique Santa Postcards
Research the Authorship Question for Yourself
And after the fun, fall asleep to Clement Moore's Poetry
Hopefully, the sugar plums of illustration from antique postcards will help.


Arguments,   Smoking Gun?,   Reindeer Names,   First Publication,   Early Variants  
Timeline Summary,   Witness Letters,   Quest to Prove Authorship,   Scholars,   Fiction  
Henry Livingston's Poetry,   Clement Moore's Poetry  

Xmas,   Games,   The Man,   Writing,   History,   Work,   Illos,   Music,   Genealogy,   Bios,   Slideshow

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