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References & Testimonials
December 15, 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: Duncan Crary, 518-274-2723
Jury: Moore Did Not Write Famous ‘Twas Christmas Poem
Courtroom Trial Verdict Challenges Holiday History in Troy, NY
HD Trial Footage & High Res Still Photos Available NOW
TROY, NY (Dec. 15, 2014) — A jury delivered a surprise verdict on Sunday that long-credited author Clement Clarke Moore did not write the most famous Christmas poem in history.
The holiday mock re-trial was held on Dec. 7, 2014 in the John T. Casey Ceremonial Courtroom at the Rensselaer County Courthouse in downtown Troy, the city where “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously, for the first time ever, in the Dec. 23, 1823 edition of the Troy Sentinel newspaper.
Six jurors, selected at random from the packed courthouse gallery, unanimously found that Major Henry Livingston Jr. of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. is the true author of those cherished verses that begin with the famous line “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“The people of Troy do like to route for the upstate underdog,” said trial creator Duncan Crary. “But this verdict came completely by surprise for all involved.”
LIVINGSTON v MOORE
Now in its second year, “The Trial Before Christmas” is a full-blown mock trial to determine “Who Really Wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” It is held in a real court, before a real (retired) judge, real attorneys, with real court guards and personnel.
The trial centers on a centuries-old authorship controversy between to old New York families.
Years after its un-credited publication in the Sentinel, in 1837, a wealthy Manhattan biblical scholar named Clement Clarke Moore claimed authorship and has been officially credited ever since. But descendants of Henry Livingston Jr., a gentleman farmer of the Hudson Valley, claim their ancestor was the true, unrecognized author. Backing their assertions is Vassar College professor and literary forensics expert Don Foster, whose 2000 book “Author Unknown” presented a strong case for Livingston. On the other hand, Dr. Joe Nickell thoroughly refuted those claims in his book “Pen, Ink and Evidence,” also published in 2000. Both works and other research serve as inspiration for the upcoming courtroom showdown.
“There’s no question that Santa is real — because children believe in him!” said event creator Duncan Crary. “The question is: who wrote this magical poem that first sparked our belief in a distinctly American Santa known and loved around the world?”
Photo Caption: Attny. E. Stewart Jones Jr. during cross examination of Pamela McColl, publisher of best-selling book titled “Twas The Night Before Christmas: edited by Santa Claus for the Benefit of Children of the 21st century” (Grafton and Scratch Publishers). Court Stenographer Judy DelCogliano transcribes the proceedings. | Photo by Neil Grabowsky, Jersey Nerds.
After a hung jury on Dec. 18 2013, this year’s case of Livingston v. Moore was once again tried by E. Stewart Jones, Jr., upstate New York’s preeminent trial attorney, representing the interests of Moore. Reprising their roles for the Livingston claim were Troy novelist/sole practicing attorney Jack Casey, author of “The Trial of Bat Shea,” and his daughter, attorney Molly Casey of Albany law firm Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Butler & Monroe.
Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Edward O. Spain presided over this year’s retrial.
Expert testimony was given by City of Troy and Rensselaer County Historian Kathryn Sheehan, as well as Canadian anti-smoking advocate Pamela McColl, who famously published a version of the poem with all references to smoking removed (during her testimony, McColl furbished a letter by Moore that deplored smoking, thus calling into question his authorship of a jolly, smoking elf).
Three ghosts took the stand to testify as well: Maj. Henry Livingston Jr. , played by Byron Nilsson; Sarah Sackett, played by Kathleen Carey; and Clement Clarke Moore, played by Patrick McKenna.
“If they can vote in Troy, they can testify,” said each of the Caseys at different points, in response to Jones objections to calling the dead to the stand — and in tongue-in-cheek reference to a long history of voter fraud involving deceased residents of that city.
MOORE AND LIVINGSTON DESCENDANTS PRESENT
Photo Caption: The ghost of Sarah Sackett (played by Kathleen Carey) interrupts testimony by the ghost of Maj. Henry Livingston, Jr. (played by Byron Nilsson). Also shown are Rensselaer County Court Guards Colleen Casey and Brian Pettit, NYS Supreme Court Justice Edward O. Spain, ret., Court Clerk Beth Muller and Court Stenographer Judy DelCogliano. | Photo by Neil Grabowsky, Jersey Nerds.
Seated at Jones’ table was Chris Post, a descendant of Clement C. Moore. Joining the Caseys was Mary Van Deusen, a descendant of Henry Livingston Jr., who was responsible for bringing the authorship controversy to the world’s attention in 2000 by enlisting the help of literary forensics expert Don Foster.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that Troy adopted Henry Livingston so enthusiastically, since Henry’s authorship has been a matter of passionate belief by so many along the Hudson River for decades before I was ever born,” Van Deusen said after the verdict. “If Henry belongs to anyone, it’s to those people who grew up with Henry’s same love of this vital and energetic Hudson Valley region.”
Crary said he would not be surprised if this year’s re-trial were declared a mis-trial, and for the Moore party to come back ready to reclaim their ancestor’s author credit in the future.
“We may never know who the true author of this poem was,” Crary said. “But the controversy is nearly as old as the poem itself, and this mock trial is a fun way to keep interest in this literature alive for another generation.”
MAYOR PROCLAIMS HENRY LIVINGSTON JR. DAY
Friday Dec. 19, Noon Ceremony at Sentinel Bldg. Troy, NY
The mayor will present the proclamation during a brief ceremony at noon, on Friday, Dec. 19 in front of the historic Sentinel newspaper building in Troy at 225 River Street in downtown Troy. The ceremony will be attended by both the Jones and Casey legal teams, as well as by event creator Duncan Crary, and members of Gramercy Communications, major sponsors of The Trial Before Christmas.
Also present will be Uncle Sam re-enactor Fred Polnisch and “Sax-O-Claus” Luke McNamee.
“Troy, New York is the place where two of our greatest American icons, ‘Uncle Sam’ and ‘Santa Claus,’ first took shape,” said Crary. “It only makes sense for them to attend our Friday ceremony to recognize our community’s role in the history of national symbolism and myth.”
Crary said a traditional St. Nicholas, or “Sinterklaas,” will attend to meet his successor, Santa Claus, and that the two figures will exchange special gifts. (Dec. 19 is celebrated ast “St. Nicholas Day” in orthodox countries.)
DEC. 21 SCREENING OF TRIAL VIDEO
The Trial Before Christmas was filmed for a live simulcast and webcast by RPI TV. A special, edited and re-mixed video, featuring additional B-Roll footage, will be screened at Brown’s Revolution Hall on Sunday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. with suggested donation of $5.
Video editing and re-mixing is by Jersey Nerds. Revolution Hall is located at 425 River Street in Troy, NY. The edited video will be posted online at http://ChristmasTrial.com
High resolution stills from The Trial Before Christmas 2014, copies of the original hand-illustrated artwork for the Trial, a copy of the Mayor’s proclamation and much more can be downloaded for media reproduction at:
Note: Television producers may contact Duncan Crary for HD trial footage of the Trial for use in holiday news broadcast packages. (You can view a recording of the live RPI TV broadcast now at the link above, now).
For information about The Trial Before Christmas 2013 & Retrial 2014, visit: http://ChristmasTrial.com
For questions or to schedule interviews, contact: Duncan Crary, 518-274-2723
December 9, 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jim Lewis 518-429-3909
Dec. 11: Troy Open Studio Raises Icarus to the Pantheon
Furniture Maker Celebrates Name Change from “Icarus” to “Springwood” With Theatrical “Fractured Fairy Tale”
TROY, N.Y. (12/9/14) — An internationally acclaimed Troy furniture studio will celebrate its new name and ownership with a ceremony of mythological proportions.
Icarus Furniture is now Springwood Studios, an artisanal woodworking shop specializing in high quality hand-made furniture and wood sculpture. To mark the change in name and focus, owner Jim Lewis, 63, will be “Releasing Icarus to the Pantheon” in what he calls a theatrical “Fractured Fairy Tale” in the streets.
“It’s a Greek tradition that if you live in a place that is sacred to a mythological figure, you get to tell the story however you want,” said Lewis. “Our workshop in Troy, N.Y. was originally named in honor of Icarus, so we get to tell our own myth about him. In our version, he finally retires from Troy and reaches the Gods.”
On Thursday, Dec. 11 at 3:30 p.m., Troy officials, neighbors and friends will congregate outside the studio at 154 Fourth St. Lewis will clip wings onto a toga-wearing Icarus idol (baby doll) and hoist it by pulley and line to the skies. A lightning bolt wielding Zeus (in the form of a Springwood intern) will receive Icarus at the top of his flight, and thus the boy who flew too close to the sun will finally enter the pantheon of Gods. If satisfied by the offerings presented to him, Zeus will then “magically” transform the studio sign from “Icarus Furniture” to “Springwood Studios.”
The ceremony is a playful nod to studio’s former name Icarus, inspired by the ancient mythological character. It is also the latest in a trend of increasingly theatrical alternative “ribbon cutting” ceremonies in Troy (including sausage links, quesadilla and board cuttings, as well as a miniature cannon blast ceremony).
An open studio at Springwood will follow, from 3:30 p.m. till 8 p.m. with catering by Carmen’s Cuban Cafe. The studio will showcase several pieces — some new, some old favorites — including a five-petal oak and wenge table in the form of a morning glory; a sculptural desk that looks decidedly like a jellyfish; and a model of Red Bud, a 12 foot-tall dome sculpture that was once in display in Albany’s Tricentenniel Park. Photos of Lewis’ architectural size plywood domes based on natural forms — seashells, mushrooms, fruit and flowers and even cabbages — will be on display during the open studio.
In 1977, Lewis co-founded Icarus Furniture in Troy. In 2010, he bought out his partner and officially changed the studio name. But a major five-year project to create furnishings and a carved mural for Sacred Heart Church in Edinburg, Texas took up most of his focus. After completing that commission, Lewis has been renovating his shop and working with Carmen Gonzalez on her restaurant, Carmen’s Cafe. Now, Lewis says, it’s time to formally “hang out a shingle” for Springwood Studios.
“One of the reasons for changing the studio name is that I’m slightly adjusting what I do,” Lewis said. “I still want to do liturgical and home furnishings, but my focus will be more on the sculptural. My work is furniture that shapes the space. I’m sort of straddling the line between furniture and sculpture, and sometimes touching on architecture.”
Lewis’ high quality, solid wood furniture has received multiple design awards from Modern Liturgy Magazine and praise from Architectural Digest. He has designed and built pieces for about 80 churches, chapels, synagogues and meditation spaces across the country — though many are located in the Capital Region.
Due to the large scope of his projects, most of his shows have been in his studio, where he exhibits projects before they are installed.
CHANNELING TROY’S PAST
A native of Lancaster County, Pa., Lewis grew up on Springwood Farm where his family raised sheep and ducks. He moved to Troy in 1971 and fell in love with the historic architecture.
“There seems something wonderfully classic historic about Troy — living history. You can feel that it was founded on neoclassical idealism,” Lewis said. “It’s not just the Victorian but the earlier federal stuff, which seems to refer to an era when you could stop a man on the street and discuss the classics with him.”
One Troy figure inspires Lewis in particular: a cabinet maker named Elijah Galusha, who was one of the pioneers of plywood and veneer construction, whose work rivaled the best of his contemporary craftsmen in New York City.
“I like to think I channel Elisha and keep up his tradition,” Lewis said, noting that Galusha lived in a house four blocks from Springwood Studios.
For photographs of Lewis’ work, visit:
For higher resolutions, contact Jim Lewis.
Contact: Jim Lewis 518-429-3909