Henry Livingston, Jr.
Historical Publicity

Historical Articles Chronological Articles
Historical Arguments
1886 Cornelia Griswold Goodrich
Letters to Dutchess County Historian Benson Lossing

Henry Livingston (1748-1828)
+ Sarah Welles (1752-1783)
    Catherine Livingston (1775-1808)
    + Arthur Breese
        Catherine Walker Breese (1798-1886)
        + Samuel Griswold
            Cornelia Griswold (1821-1902)
            + William Goodrich
                Cornelia Griswold Goodrich

Cornelia Goodrich was 44 years old when her grandmother, Catharine Breese, died, and her grandmother had been 20 years old when Major Henry died. This meant that the stories Cornelia was raised with came directly from a contemporary of the Major. So Cornelia was raised with someone who had first hand stories of Major Henry.

Feeling it was important that the authorship of the poem be corrected, Cornelia wrote to Benson Lossing, a famous Dutchess County historian, hoping he would take the family's case for Henry's authorship public. Unfortunately, though Lossing was interested, Cornelia didn't have the smoking gun evidence Lossing felt he needed.

1899 Henry Livingston
Babylon, LI, NY
South Side Signal (LI-NY)

Henry Livingston (1748-1828)
+ Jane Patterson (1769-1838)
    Sidney Livingston (1796-1856)
    + Joannah Holthuysen
        Henry Livingston (1837-1906)
        + Augusta Carrl

While Cornelia's stories came to her by way of her grandmother, a contemporary of Major Henry, Henry Livingston of Long Island NY received his stories directly from the Major's son Sidney, Long Island Henry's father. The Major's grandson was the first member of the huge Livingston clan to publish the Major's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in Long Island Henry's own newspaper, the South Side Signal, in 1899.

Sidney's children added to the tapestry of rich memories of the Livingston family. All of Sidney's children were told by their father that Sidney remembered his father reciting his newly composed poem. Sidney's daughter Lavinia wrote: "My father said his father wrote it, and we children believed it. Emphatically and were proud of it. Aunt Susan Gurney (Henry and Jane's daughter) also told me that Grandfather Livingston wrote it, she ought to know, being right there in the house and seeing her father every day."

The children also remembered Sidney's story of finding the original, corrected manuscript of the Christmas poem after Major Henry's death. Upon Sidney's death, that manuscript was passed on to Sidney's brother Edwin, who lost it in a house fire while he was living with their sister Susan in Wisconsin.

This story, while frustrating, points up the fact that no corrected, original manuscript was ever found to back up Clement Moore's claim to the poem. By way of an after the fact explanation, a deposition given by a Moore family member finessed the problem by relating Moore's explaination that no corrected copy existed because he composed the poem full blown in his head, and wrote it down in essentially published, final form.

Simon W. Cooper 1899 Dec 29 Authorship of "The Night Before Christmas" "Mr. Henry Livingston claims that his grandfather, Henry Livingston, and not Clement C. Moore, was the author of the poem, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."
Simon W. Cooper 1920 Dec 19 Out on Long Island "The late Henry Livingston long ago told this writer that his grandfather was the author of the poem always accredited to Clement C. Moore."
1919 William S. Thomas
Duchess County Historical Society
1919 Yearbook, pp32-46

Henry Livingston (1748-1828)
+ Jane Patterson (1769-1838)
    Jane Livingston (1800-1870)
    + William Barber Thomas
        Henry Livingston Thomas (1835-1903)
        + Alice Phinney
            William S. Thomas (1871-1941)
            + Emma Frank

Since Henry's daughter Jane died the year before her grandson William was born, Dr. Thomas only heard the family stories secondhand from his father, Henry Livingston Thomas. But what he did hear was enough to fire his blood.

Before he was called up for military service in the first World War, Dr. Thomas had thrown himself into the quest to prove Major Henry's authorship, The previous generation had gathered much of the material, and Thomas' passion excited them to believe that here was the person who would be able to finally make their case. From all branches of the family, the documents were searched out and forwarded to Dr. Thomas.

A fine researcher, Dr. Thomas searched through old newspaper collections hoping to find the published version of the poem spoken of by the family. But even if those stories were true, the issue in which it was published was long lost.

Returning safe from the war, and frustrated by the lack of a smoking gun, Dr. Thomas dove into an analysis of what he did have. The result was an excellent article which he published in the Dutchess County Historical Society Yearbook for 1919.

Although Dr. Thomas's stylistic analysis was convincing to many, the weight of Moore's name on the cover of so many volumes of the famous poem made the struggle to keep Livingston's name before the public an uphill battle. But Dr. Thomas never gave up trying. The articles written under his inspiration over the decades made a solid foundation on which latter researchers built.

Winthrop P. Tryon 1920 Aug 4 Christian Science Monitor "Henry Livingston Junior, who, according to a tradition handed down through four generations of his descendants and unanimously held by those representing him today, was the author of the famous ballad"
Henry Litchfield West 1921 Bookman "The work which has been undertaken, and which is here only partially recorded, is, of course, a labor of love; and it has been prosecuted with full appreciation of the difficulty in overturning an apparently established fact. Dr. Moore's authorship, resting upon the inclusion of the poem in his published volume, has stood practically unchallenged; and the burden of disproving the claim of a man of his high attainments and unblemished character, is not a light one"
Vincent Starrett 1920 Dec 10 Oak Park IL Oak Leaves
1925 Reprint
"an imposing doubt has been raised"
. 1923 Dec 27 A St. Nick Century "It is still attributed to Dr. Moore, but a claim to its authorship was made by the family of Henry Livingstone, a reputable amateur poet, who lived near Pioughkeepsie. Other verse written by Livingston shows the same mental characteristics."
Burton E. Stevenson 1924 Famous Single Poems "However, if no one else had ever claimed it, and if its authorship had to be decided on internal evidence alone, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" might fairly be held to resemble the work of Henry Livingston much more closely than it resembles the work of Clement C. Moore."  Annotated
James Thurber 1927 Dec 24 Whose Santa Claus? "His chief literary work is a ponderous book entitled "A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language." He also liked to turn out pieces such as one called "Observations upon Certain Passages in Mr. Jefferson's Note on the State of Virginia which Appear to have a Tendency to Subvert Religion and Establish a False Philosophy."
. 1929 Dec 24 Two Sections of Manhattan Claim Christmas Shrine "When a copy of the Sentinel came to Dr. Moore's attention he was upset. He protested. What if it became known that he wrote it? What would people think - he, a theologian and a professor of Greek and Hebrew, writing frivolous verses for children!"
Paul Harrison 1933 Dec 20 Gastonia NY Daily Gazette "Nobody - except perhaps the omniscient Mr. S. Claus - knows for sure who wrote the famous children's poem..."
Dunkirk NY Evening Observer,  Frederick MD Daily News,  Aniston Star
Bluefield Daily Telegraph,  Syracuse Herald,  Sandusky OH Star Journal
Lowell (MA) Sun,  Freeport Journal-Standard,  Avalanche Journal
James H. Street 1933 Dec 24 Billings Gazette "descendants of Henry Livingston, Jr. say it was his lawn on which there arose such a clatter that he sprang from his bed to see what was the matter."
San Antonio Express,   Avalanche Journal
Helen Wilkinson Reynolds 1942 Editorial Notes "Dr. Moore was learned, measured, rather ponderous, and his writings do not indicate gayety of spirit and have no lightness of touch."
1936 James Livingston Denig
Portsmouth NH Herald
24 Dec 1936

Henry Livingston (1748-1828)
+ Jane Patterson (1769-1838)
    Charles Livingston (1794-1847)
    + Eliza Clement Brewer (1798-1878)
        Jane Livingston (1829-1909)
        + Lester Hubbard
            Jeanne Hubbard (1856-1945)
            + Robert Denig
                James Livingston Denig (1919-1944)

James Denig was the son of Jeanne Livingston (Hubbard) Denig, and grew up with Jeanne's family stories of Henry Livingston and the Christmas poem. These were stories that Jeanne had heard directly from her grandmother Eliza, the young girl who lived next door to the Livingston family, and who had married Henry and Jane's oldest son Charles, a favorite child with whom Major Henry kept in warm and loving correspondence

Eliza and Charles had both told their children of hearing Major Henry recite the poem to his family many years before it first appeared in the Troy Sentinel. Although Charles died before Jeanne was born, Jeanne was 22 years old before her grandmother Eliza died, so Jeanne heard directly from someone who was there. It was Jeanne's mother Jane who had first discovered Moore taking credit for the poem around 1860. Eliza told her daughter that the mistake should be corrected.

Jeanne wrote 11 letters to William S. Thomas filled with memories and passion, even beginning her own styalistic analysis comparing the poetry of Henry's son Edwin to the Visit poet. How much more of that passion was she able to pass on to her son James.

1941 W. Stephen Thomas
Dutchess County Historical Society
Nov 10, 1977

William S. Thomas (1871-1941
+ Emma Frank
    W. Stephen Thomas (1909-2001)
    + Katharine Cornesh

With the death of his father, William S. Thomas, the responsibility for continuing Thomas' quest to prove Henry Livingston's authorship of the Christmas poem fell on his son, W. Stephen Thomas. Not ready yet to dive into the research materials to write the article about Henry his father had been planning for the Dutchess County Historical Society, Thomas generously provided his father's papers to Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, a renowned scholar of Dutchess County history. "Editorial Notes on the Writing of Henry Livingston," Dutchess County Historical Society 1942 Yearbook, pp.39-51 focuses on Henry's poetry, rather than on the authorship attribution question.

When he did dive into his treasure trove of documents, W. Stephen discovered that he preferred the task of spreading the word, to writing the words. He was an evangelist, and his enthusiasm was contagious. His major success was in converting Vassar President Henry Noble MacCracken, a literary scholar, to a belief in Henry's authorship Because of Thomas' unstinting efforts to publicize his belief in Henry's authorship of the poem, Unicover issued a Fleetwood First Day Cover calling out Henry as the author of 'A Visit of St. Nicholas."

Burton Roscoe 1947 Dec 21 San Antonio Light "There is quite a bit of evidence, however, for believing that maybe Major Henry Livingston of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. wrote the poem..."
Clark Kinnard 1948 Dec 16 Oelwein Daily Register "There is evidence suggesting that Moore wasn't the author."
Mansfield News Journal
What you should know about Christmas 1949 Dec 6 Widely published cartoon IT'S not certain that Clement C. Moore wrote the beloved "A Visit from St. Nicholas," the only reason he's famous. He never claimed it. Henry Livingston may have been the author.
Henry N. MacCracken 1958 Blithe Dutchess "Evidence of people of this sort cannot be put down as just the whim of a few old ladies, as Robert Benchley tried to do years ago."
Helen Meyers 22 Dec 1963 Poughkeepsie Journal "That [Moore's friendship with local William Bard] firmly places Moore in this [near Poughkeepsie] area, so it seems more than probable that he met Livingston at some of the many Hudson valley parties which Livingston described so vividly in a rhymed letter to his brother Beekman"
James Aldredge 1968 Dec 23 Kansas City Times "Whatever conclusions one may wish to draw, it is plain as berries on a holly bush that Major Livingston dashed off nobody knows how many verses in the same rollicking vein. Anyone reading his gay letters in rhyme would have to concede it would have been no effort at all for him to have turned out the famous poem in question."
Tristram P. Coffin 1973 Book of Christmas Folklore "The chances are excellent it [the honor of authorship] should go to a sometime major in the Revolution, land surveyor and "renaissance man" from Dutchess County, Henry Livingston, jr. (1748-1828)." ... Livingston makes a better father for this particular brainchild [Night Before Christmas] than Moore.
. 1975 Dec 5 The Americans who gave us Santa Claus "Clement Moore's The Night Before Christmas poem (which was adapted from the creation of a man named Henry Livingston) was published in 1823 and described Santa and his reindeer the way we know them today. "
Richard Pritchett 1975 Dec 24 Fairbanks Daily News Miner "In all probability, the author of the Christmas classic was Henry Livingston, Jr."
Jack Cavanaugh 1975 Dec 24 Lethbridge Herald "Doubt is being cast on whether Clement Clarke Moore was the author of one of the world's most masterful pieces of Christmas poetry - A Visit From St. Nicholas."
Jack Cavanaugh 1976 Dec 24 The Lethbridge Herald [McCracken] wrote: "There runs through all Professor Moore's verse a kind of frustration. ... He was a self-torturing Midas; all around him was a rich harvest of poetry which he turned to lead."
Ruth Cooper-Mosley 1977 Dec 24 New River Newspapers "There is some controversy over whether Moore lifted all or part of the work from verses by a land surveyor named Henry Livingston Jr."
Charles J. Berger 1977 Oct 21 First Day Cover "But it has come to be accepted by scholars that Henry Livingston, Jr."
Dan Carlinsky 1983 Dec 25 Syracuse Herald Journal "Who really wrote the immortal poem? You won't find a definitive answer here or anywhere else. About that question, scholars disagree, as scholars often do."
Anthony R. Wood 1983 Dec 22 News Herald "It reputedly was written by Clement Clark Moore, although Coffin says the more likely author was a surveyor and "renaissance man" named Henry Livingston."
Barbara Craig 1985 Dec 9 Chronicle Telegram "...the dispute over who actually wrote the poem will probably never be settled."
D.G. Fulford 1989 Dec 23 Appeal Democrat "Well, if we don't even know for sure who wrote the poem, who ya gonna call for the right reindeer name?"
2000 Mary S. Van Deusen

Website - 2000

Henry Livingston (1748-1828)
+ Sarah Welles (1752-1783)
    Catherine Livingston (1775-1808)
    + Arthur Breese
        Sarah Breese (1798-1886)
        Barent B. Lansing
            Henry Livingston Lansing (1818-1889)
                Sarah Gibson
                Sarah Lansing (1846-1877)
                + Henry L. Burnett
                    Catharine Burnett (1873-1934)
                    + Jack Bell
                        Bradley E. (Bell) Van Deusen (1905-1955)
                        + Jean Butridge
                            Mary S. Van Deusen (1944-)
                            + Paul R. Kosinski

I tripped into this quest while searching out my father's ancestry in the hopes of finding a cousin who might have a copy of father's book of poetry. I only knew father through the letters he'd sent mother trying to save their marriage. In one he wrote that he'd burned his manuscripts and that the future could do without him. That simple sentence had taken over my life, and I was determined that neither I nor the future was going to do any such thing. But for all my passion and determination, father's poetry was unfindable, and father remained a shadow.

And then I came across a web page saying that my 5th great grandfather might have written 'Night Beroe Christmas.' Another quest. A wrong that needed righting. But maybe this time I could succeed where I'd failed father.

As a retired computer science researcher, it wasn't that difficult to track down Don Foster as the person I needed to help me help Henry. I've started professional organizations and publications, run computer language conferences, and turned a passion for making music videos into a multimedia magazine for an IBM Research VP. I'm smart. I'm passionate. I'm an evangelist and, yes, Don, I'm relentless. It was truly the most joyful research year.

A decade later MacDonald P. Jackson, an emeritus professor from New Zealand, contacted me because he thought there was still research room in the attribution question and he had a different way to approach the problem. We were off and running within a week.

What he needed was data to statistically analyze. The poor man never imagined how much data he was going to get. One of my best friends, Lyn, is a retired big name in computational linguistics. I used to chair the international society for computer languages. My husband Paul put out a paper on "Yet Another ALGOL Compiler" in 1963. He is VERY good with computers. So we explained to Mac that we could give him just about any type of data he might want, suitably computer massaged to make it easy for him to pull out likely trends to examine further.

His initial requests were modest. But I'm someone who enjoys xeroxing, so I suggested he not worry about the effort involved, but just tell us what data he WISHED he could have. And that's what we gave him. We pulled out data with absolutely no understanding of what that data meant for Mac's analysis. We were the miners digging out the raw ore, and Mac was the one sluicing it to find out if there was any gold in a particular creek. (Did I mention that father's father turned out to be a front page, big headline newspaperman and gold miner who won and lost fortunes from Alaska to Central America? Stetson, six-shooter, burro and the rest.)

Oh, and last year (2012) father's book of poetry showed up for sale on the Internet.

Don Foster 2000 Author Unknown "Henry Livingston gave to his children, and neighbors and friends and readers, much that could not be taken away. Compared to such an extraordinary life, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" is indeed a "trifle," just as Dr. Clement Clarke Moore had said it was. Henry Livingston was the spirit of Christmas itself."
David D. Kirkpatrick 2000 Oct 26 New York Times "Foster has compiled a litany of stylistic quirks common to Livingston's known works, the texts that influenced them and 'A Visit.'"
Ian Lancashire 2001 Representational Poetry Online "His most famous poem, "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore..."
Samantha Miller 2000 Nov 11 People Magazine "The real bard behind the 'right jolly old elf' was likely Poughkeepsie, N.Y. judge and poet Henry Livingston, Jr., not Clement Clarke Moore."
Michael Hill 2000 Dec 26 Indiana Gazette "Foster also exposes himself to a new controversy by asserting that Clement Clarke Moore falsely posed as the author of the beloved Christmas poem known commonly as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Foster believes the real author was Henry Livingston Jr., an obscure Poughkeepsie poet."
Judy Lin 2003 Dec 6 Indiana Gazette "Although "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" was first published anonymously as "A Visit from St. Nicholas," the poem is most commonly credited to Clement Clarke Moore, a Bible professor in New York City. Descendants of Henry Livingston have insisted it was the Revolutionary War veteran who penned the popular holiday poem."
Randall Chase 2005 Nov 27 Indiana Gazette "Moore's reluctance to claim authorship, and the fact that the poem stands in contraxt to the serious tone of his other writings are used as evidence by those who believe the author was Maj. Henry Livingston Jr., a retired soldier and judge from Poughkeepsie, N.Y."
k. a. gardner 2010 Dec 23 Flipped Again "In his book, Author Unknown, Foster accuses Moore of committing literary fraud with circumstantial evidence - the poem's spirit and style are at odds with Moore's other writings."
Rosemary E. Bachelor 2011 Dec 5 Suite 101 "In 1787, Henry published his first New Year's poem in a newspaper. It included these two lines: 'But now the end of all this clatter/Is but a small and trifling matter."
Harriet Staff 2011 Dec 5 Poetry Foundation "The book credits authorship to farmer-poet Henry Livingston Jr., not Clement Clarke Moore..."
Bob Keyes 2011 Dec 8 Portland Press Herald "The new book featuring The Night Before Christmas is the first to credit Henry Livingston Jr. as the author of the poem."
Steve King Undated Today in Literature "Foster adds a list of other improbabilities and perfidies to the case against Moore..."
2000 Stephen Livingston Thomas
Fishkill Historic Society Talk

Henry Livingston (1748-1828)
+ Jane Patterson (1769-1838)
    Jane Livingston (1800-1870)
    + William Barber Thomas
        Henry Livingston Thomas (1835-1903)
        + Alice Phinney
            William S. Thomas (1871-1941)
            + Emma Frank
                W. Stephen Thomas (1909-2001)
                + Katharine Cornesh
                    Stephen Livingston Thomas (1950-)
                    + Karen

Stephen Livingston Thomas was destined to love his ancestor, Henry Livingston. Steve's birth announcement explained that he would have to someday take up the gauntlet for Henry when it became too heavy for his father to carry. And it really is impossible to learn about Henry and not love him. Actually, it's impossible to imagine that Henry wouldn't have loved Steve, too, if they had ever met in some time machine. They share a love of words and images and family. Steve just creates his on the Internet.

Steve has inherited The Thomas Collection - papers by and about Henry that have made their way to Steve from generations of Livingston family members who hoped that somewhere, something would help someone to prove their case. By making those papers available to Don Foster for his book, "Author Unknown," Steve may have finally given those long dead cousins some peace.

Joseph P. Kahn 2011 Dec 3 Boston Globe "Who wrote the poem ... has been in dispute for more than a century."
Mark Hare 2011 Dec 24 Democrat and Chronicle "Yet for more than a century, the family of Henry Livingston Jr., has argued that he, not Moore, penned the poem to entertain his own children."
Anonymous 2013 Aug 26 KCC Big Country "...more importantly, there is controversy about who even wrote “The Night Before Christmas”. The author of this poem is still debatable to this day."
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