Clement Clarke Moore was one of New York's
wealthiest men. And clearly, one of it's most highly educated.
He was born in 1779 to Benjamin Moore, a patriot and and Episcopalian
minister. His mother was Charity Clarke, a fiesty and ardent supporter
of the American cause. He inherited from her side of the family
a good portion of land that would someday become the Chelsea District
in New York City.
For young Clement C. Moore, his life's work
did not lay in the ministry as it did his father. He had a well
developed love of language and pursued the learning of ancient
dialects of Hebrew, Greek and German. But he was a man of profound
attachment to family, home and church. He donated property and
for a time assumed the entire debt of Saint Peter's Church.
He married a woman named Catherine Elizabeth
and was shamelessly devoted to her. While courting her, Moore
wrote to his future mother-in-law that he would carve her name
into trees. Together, they had nine children. When her life unexpectedly
was taken while she was yet 30 years old, he was devastated. But
he assumed her duties and enjoyed fond relationships with his
children and grandchildren.
It is not hard to imagine then what transpired
that snowy Christmas Eve in 1822. Catherine sent her husband out
into the elements to get one more turkey, which she and the children
were preparing as a donation to the poor. Their home, with six
children at the time, was one filled with love and warmth and
tradition. Clement ventured into town, his coachman being a jolly,
round fellow with a long white beard and a most cheerful disposition.
After he purchased the needed turkey from Jefferson's
Market, with sleigh bells merrily ringing in his ears as the snow
fell that Christmas Eve day, he composed a short poem. Moore returned
home with the turkey and the family traditions of Christmas took
He added to them by delighting his young children
that night by the fire with the first reading of "The Night Before
Christmas", the poem he had composed that very afternoon. Then,
he tucked his handwritten copy of his creation away and gave it
no further thought. But his poem had made a powerful impression
upon his children, who some months later shared it with a visiting
family friend. This same friend, not knowing that Moore's sole
intent was to keep the poem private, sent it to the Troy Sentinel,
where it was published anonymously just before Christmas in 1823.
The poem quickly became beloved of the public
and spread Moore's name around the globe. It shaped the imagination
of who Santa Claus is and what he looks like. Moore's work provided
inspiration for Thomas Nast, an illustrator of political cartoons
who gained notoriety as well for his early wood engravings of
Christmas scenes published in Harper's Weekly.
By 1844, Moore included A Visit from Saint
Nicholas in a published collection of his poetic writings. He
was a giant in his community, a trustee of Columbia University,
well known in academia for his scholarship in ancient languages
and his real estate dealings shaped modern-day Manhatten.
But the world knows him and holds him dear
for the "trifle", as he called it, that he penned for his children
on a chilly sleigh ride back home from the market on Christmas
Eve of 1822. Here is the text of A Visit from Saint Nicholas,
or, as most know it,
~ Twas the Night Before Christmas ~
Here For a 'VISUAL TOUR'
"Twas the Night Before Christmas"