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a jessie willcox smith illustration from the 1912 edition of "twas the night before christmas"

Jessie Willcox Smith’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas” Illustrations

December 12, 2017 Jessica 0 Comments

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

What a beautiful thought this is. Even more beautiful are the memories these words evoke in many of us who associate the poem with the Christmas season.

Interesting Facts About Clement Clarke Moore’s Famous Poem

jessie willcox smith illustration for twas the night before christmas published in 1912 -- girl sleeping

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

“Twas the Night Before Christmas,” initially titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” was published anonymously in 1823. Here are a few other interesting facts about this poem:

  • Only four handwritten copies of the poem exist today. Three are housed in museums
  • In 1837, Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership of the poem and was accepted as its author.
  • The fourth copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” “written out and signed by Clement Clarke Moore as a gift to a friend in 1860 was sold by one private collector to another in December 2006,” stated Wikipedia. “It was purchased for $280,000 by an unnamed ‘chief executive officer of a media company’ located in New York City.”
  • The poem has been referred to as “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American,” according to A Bookish Blog.

Who Originally Illustrated “A Visit from St. Nicholas”?

jessie willcox smith illustration for twas the night before christmas published in 1912 -- page from the book

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

The issue of who wrote “Twas The Night Before Christmas” is still being debated. Though Moore has long been regarded as the author, various commentators believe the poem was actually written by Henry Livingston, Jr. What we hear less about is which artists illustrated different publications of the world-famous poem.

According to Nineteenth Century Publication Milestones, the first known illustration connected with “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was released in 1830, created by illustrator Myron King. It was published in in The Troy (New York) Sentinel newspaper carrier’s holiday broadside. However, Jessie Willcox Smith is possibly the most famous artist to have illustrated the poem.  

Jessie Willcox Smith Illustrated the 1912 Publication of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

jessie willcox smith illustration for twas the night before christmas published in 1912 -- santa

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

Born in 1863, Jessie Willcox Smith was an extremely in-demand illustrator during her lifetime. As stated by Free Vintage Illustrations, she…

  • Illustrated all of the Good Housekeeping magazine covers from 1915-1933.
  • Created one of the first-ever advertisements for Ivory soap.
  • Provided illustrations for more than 60 children’s books.
  • Illustrated the Mother Goose series for Good Housekeeping.

In addition to these incredible accomplishments, Jessie Willcox Smith also illustrated a publication of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that was released in the eventful year of 1912. Today, copies of the book are still selling regularly.

Do you have memories of being read “A Visit from St. Nicholas” as a child? Did your parents own a copy of the poem illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith? Share your thoughts with us in the “comments” section below.

Read more Segmation blog posts about Christmas:

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#a visit from st nicholas#Christmas#Christmas Illustrations#clement clarke moore#henry livingston jr#illustrated#illustrations#Jessie willcox smith#myron king#poem#Segmation#twas the night before christmas
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