When “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” better known to many as “'Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was first published in New York’s Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1893, there was no author attached to it. Even though it became an instant classic, it wasn't until 13 years later that two men stepped up to claim the work was theirs. Neither of them had solid proof, and the mystery was never truly solved.
On December 18, 2013, lawyers from prominent New York firms met at the Rensselaer County Courthouse in Troy, N.Y., to get an “official” ruling once and for all.
Representing Clement C. Moore, the writer who typically gets the credit, was E. Stewart Jones, Jr., a preeminent litigator in upstate New York. Representing underdog Henry Livingston, Jr., was Troy novelist and attorney Jack Casey and his daughter Molly, also an attorney.
In this corner: Clement Clarke Moore
After more than a decade of anonymity, professor and poet Clement Clarke Moore came forward to say the poem he had written for his children had been submitted to the newspaper by his housekeeper without his permission. When an anthology of Moore’s work was published in 1844, the classic composition was in it. There are historical plaques honoring Moore in Troy, and most copies of the book bear his name.
In this corner: Henry Livingston, Jr.
The family of farmer Henry Livingston, Jr., disputed Moore’s claim, saying their father had been reciting "A Visit From St. Nicholas" to them for 15 years before it was published. For the details behind each family’s claims, check out this story that originally ran last year.
The trial was attended by the spirits of both Livingston and Moore—or, at least, actors portraying them—and a jury made up of volunteers from the audience whose job was to decide who the true poet really was. But after hearing from both sides, "The trial ended in a hung jury, to the surprise of absolutely no one," reported the Register-Star. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!