Sunday, December 5, 2021

Christmas present from Mary Clarke Ogden

In 1855 Mary C. Ogden made an illustrated manuscript copy of A Visit from St. Nicholas and gave it to her husband for Christmas. Mary Clarke Moore Ogden (1819-1893) was then the oldest surviving daughter of Clement C. Moore, author of the beloved holiday poem universally known as "The Night Before Christmas." In December 1951 LIFE Magazine issued a photo reproduction of Mary Ogden's beautifully calligraphed and "illuminated" version of her father's poem. Published in New York by Time Inc., the December 10, 1951 issue of LIFE with


is now accessible via Google Books:
In the Moore household the poem continued to be a favorite long after the children had grown up, and in 1855 Moore's daughter Mary made a little book of it as a special Christmas present for her husband, John Ogden. In an ornate "Gothic" script she carefully inscribed the verses and decorated the pages with scenes of the old house in the Chelsea section of New York where she and her eight brothers and sisters heard the poem recited by their father every Christmas. -- LIFE Magazine (New York: Time Inc.) December 10, 1951, page 96.

As Niels Henry Sonne pointed out in 1972, "Life named Clement Moore Ogden as the owner" of the original 1855 document. Whereabouts unknown in the early 1970's, according to Dr. Sonne, distinguished librarian of the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. 
Sonne, Niels H. “‘The Night Before Christmas’: Who Wrote It?” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 41, no. 4 (1972): 373–80 at 377.
Images below are from a copy of the 1951 facsimile in my personal collection. Happy Christmas to all!

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