Santa's Whiskers

First page of the poem in Moore's hand. 


A Visit From St. Nicholas

Clement C. Moore

Clement Clark Moore was born into a well-respected 
and well-to-do New York family in 1779. His father,
Benjamin Moore, had served as president of
Columbia University and Episcopal bishop of New
York, participating in the inauguration of George
Washington as the nation’s first president.

Clement was educated at home in his early youth
and graduated first in his class from Columbia in
1798. He became a well-known and respected
scholar and his publications covered a wide variety
of topics including religion, languages, politics and
poetry. In 1822 he was a forty-three year old
professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as
Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General
Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal

He was also a friend of Washington Irving, and in 1813 joined the New York Historical Society, making him one of the “Knickerbockers.”

In December of 1822, on the 24th, Clement Moore composed the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. While traveling home from Greenwich Village, in Manhattan where he had bought a turkey for the family dinner, he penned the story for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening.

Moore wrote the poem for his children and never intended that it be published, but a family friend, Miss Harriet Butler, learned of the poem sometime later from Moore’s children. She copied it into her album and submitted it to the editor
of the Troy (New York) Sentinel where it made its first
appearance in print on December 23, 1823. The
editor titled it: “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”.

The Troy Sentinel continued to publish the poem
annually, and the first known illustration connected
with “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was a woodcut by
Myron King done in 1830. It appeared above the
poem in the Troy Sentinel that year.

“King was a Troy engraver and he depicted Santa
Claus without a model to go by other than the words
of Moore. And yet, the jolly old elf comes alive and is
very real. Unknowingly this obscure engraver had set
Clement’s Christmas hero on the high road to
poetry’s hall of fame.” (From the only biography
written of Clement C. Moore, “The Poet Of Christmas
Eve”, by Samuel White Patterson, New York,
Morehouse-Gorham Co. 1956, p. 21.) http://babel.;view=1up;

Actually, the King illustration accompanied Moore’s
poem as a “carrier’s address,” a broadside greeting
from the Troy Sentinel to its subscribers.

The second known illustration for Moore’s poem is an engraving by William Croome that appeared in the 1840 book “The Poets of America,” edited by John Keese.