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A Visit from St. Nicholas

T.C. Boyd and Henery Onderdonk

The 1848 “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” is the first book version of Moore’s poem. Published by Henry M. Onderdonk, this little black and white paper bound chapbook is loaded with eight woodcut illustrations by T.C. Boyd. In it St. Nicholas is round-bellied and energetic, a jolly little figure whose smoking pipe seems never to leave his mouth, whether he’s with the reindeer or getting ready to go down the chimney.

​ Henry Moscrop Onderdonk was born on March 26, 1818 in New York, the son of Rev. Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk who, from 1830 till his death in 1861, was Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. In 1835, at the young age of 17, Henry was tried and convicted of forging bank notes while he sat in his father's study in Trinity Church. He was sentenced to prison but then was promptly issued clemency by Governor William L. Marcy.

​ He went on to become a civil engineer and in 1841 he married Justine Bibby. The 1840s saw him set up shop on John St. as a publisher and bookseller of religious books. In 1848 he published the first fully illustrated, book-length edition of Clement C. Moore's poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

​ Not long after, Henry took his family to Ohio, but shortly after completing his term in the Ohio Senate, Onderdonk moved his family back to New York. In July of that year, he purchased the Hempstead Inquirer, changed the paper's format and turned it into a world-class publication.

During his time in New York, Onderdonk’s publishing business was at 10 John Street, ( not far from Boyd’s shop at 61 Ann Street. The two shops were located 2/10 of a mile apart, about a 4 minute walk.

According to a letter from his daughter, T.C. (Theodore Chauncy) Boyd was born in New York in 1830. He worked as a designer, wood engraver, watercolorist, and stockbroker.

In 1848, at the age of 18, T.C. Boyd joined with Henry Onderdonk and provided eight illustrations to accompany Onderdonk’s publication of Moore’s “A Visit From Saint Nicholas.” His Santa had no mustache and was dressed in a frock coat, vest and knickers.

Six years later (1854) Boyd would leave New York for San Francisco where he established a studio at Clay and Montgomery streets. He designed and engraved the Seal of San Francisco and had exhibitions at the Mechanic’s Institute Fair in 1871 and the SFAA in 1873. He died in 1902.