For Immediate Release
Contact: Contact: Duncan Crary, 518-274-2723
Dec. 7 “Trial Before Christmas” is a Real Life “Miracle on 34th Street” in Troy, New York
Feat. Star Attorney E. Stewart Jones Jr., anti-smoking publisher Pamela McColl, famous Livingston Descendant
TROY, N.Y. (Nov. 26, 2014) — A juried re-trial in a real courtroom this Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. aims to solve a centuries-old controversy over who really wrote one of the most beloved holiday poems in the world: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Last year, “The Trial Before Christmas” was a surprise holiday spectacle that gained national media attention and attracted more than 500 spectators to the Rensselaer County Courthouse – a standing-room-only crowd. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict, so the case will be heard again.
LIVINGSTON v. MOORE
“Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” a.k.a. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was published anonymously for the first time ever in Troy, N.Y. by the Sentinel newspaper on December 23, 1823. And for nearly as long, two New York families have argued over who the poem’s true author was.
Years after its publication, 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 he 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?”
AUTHENTIC COURTROOM EXPERIENCE WITH HOLIDAY CHEER
Representing Moore is Upstate New York’s preeminent litigator, E. Stewart Jones, Jr. On the side of Livingston will be Troy novelist and 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.
A third-generation lawyer, Jones heads the E. Stewart Jones Law Firm established in Troy in 1898 by his grandfather, Abbott Jones.
The trial’s ornate setting will be The John T. Casey Ceremonial Court, named for Jack Casey’s father who served there as State Supreme Court Justice.
Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Edward O. Spain will hear the trial to settle the contested authorship.
Real court officers, a court clerk and a court stenographer will give mock trial goers an authentic experience. But the spirit will be fun and lively, Crary said, noting that a saxophone playing Santa Claus, elf and special guest will entertain the audience during a brief jury deliberation.
HUNG JURY IN 2013 > LOOKING FOR A VERDICT IN 2014
Last year on Wed., December 18, the Jones and Casey legal teams argued passionately on behalf of their “clients,” descendants of Clement C. Moore and Henry Livingston Jr. But a jury of six with one alternate — selected from the audience — was unable to reach a verdict.
This year, the case will be re-tried with the original legal teams reprising their roles during Troy’s 32nd Annual Victorian Stroll, a city-wide holiday festival that attracts more than 20,000 visitors.
“This year we’re going to do what it takes to get a verdict,” said attorney Jack Casey. “I intend to set the historical record straight and give Henry Livingston Jr. his rightful due as the true author of this magical poem.”
Jones, however, remains confident the jury will agree with the long-accepted authorship credit to Clement Clarke Moore.
“This is the most frivolous litigation ever brought before a judge in this illustrious courthouse,” Jones said. “I will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt in court that Moore was the author.”
Last year, Jones played up the case mostly for laughs. And laughs there were many. Casey, who also caused some riotous chuckles from the crowd, said he probably takes the arguments more seriously as he’s representing the underdog. “The people of Troy root for the underdog,” Casey said.
EXPERTS TO INCLUDE BEST SELLING AUTHOR PAMELA McCOLL
Famous Canadian anti-smoking advocate Pamela McColl will take the stand this year, to give expert testimony regarding the inclusion of a smoking Santa and how it reflects upon the views of the contesting authorship claims.
In 2012, McColl published a version of “Account of a Visit From Saint Nicholas” that removed all lines referring to the “jolly old elf” smoking. Her 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), was the winner of four IBPA 2013 Benjamin Franklin Awards: including first place best cover, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2012; Gold Medal best holiday book; first place at the Global International Ebook Awards best Christian children’s title; and gold place for the Mom’s Choice Awards in 2013.
McColl’s smoke-free edits to the classic poem captured international media attention including the Associated Press, NBC Nightly News, The Colbert Report, The View, the BBC and National Public Radio.
“Clement Clarke Moore was himself against smoking,” McColl said. “He likened the lure of tobacco to ‘opium’s treach’rous aid.’ So it is curious why he would include a smoking elf in a poem that was ultimately intended for children.”
McColl will selling and signing books at The Book Outlet in downtown Troy’s Uncle Sam Atrium on Saturday, Dec. 6 (Saint Nicholas Day) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the Troy Farmers Market. She will also sell and sign books at the post-trial reception at 4 p.m. in the Troy Public Library.
Rensselaer County Historian Kathryn Sheehan will give also expert testimony.
“I think the evidence on both sides is compelling,” said Sheehan, who assisted Foster with research for the chapter of his book dedicated to the poem’s authorship controversy. “I’ll leave it up to the jury as to who really wrote the poem.”
As with last year, a few ghosts from Christmases Past are also expected to take the stand.
Jurors will be selected at random from the audience. Admission is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis. There will be a live simulcast in the courthouse rotunda to accommodate overflow crowd. A post-trial party on the second floor of the neighboring Troy Public Library, with a $5 suggested donation to benefit that organization. For more information about this event, contact Duncan Crary at 518-274-2723 or visit: http://DuncanCrary.com
David Baecker, associate professor of Theatre at Russell Sage College, serves as director of “The Trial Before Christmas.”
SPECIAL: LIVINGSTON DESCENDANT TO ATTEND
Mary Van Deusen, a descendant of Henry Livingston Jr., is slated to attend and sit with attorneys Jack Casey and Molly Casey during the trial. Van Deusen is responsible for bringing the authorship controversy to the world’s attention in 2000 by enlisting the help of literary forensics expert Don Foster. Her exhaustive family research is available online here:
In order to accommodate overflow crowds, there will be a live simulcast on a large movie screen in the Rensselaer County courthouse rotunda.
The Trial Before Christmas will be filmed by RPI TV. To watch the trial live online at 2 p.m., visit: http://rpitv.org/productions/876-the-trial-before-christmas
There will be a live simulcast on a big screen in the Rensselaer County Courthouse rotunda for overflow crowd.
The Trial Before Christmas has reached its $2000 minimum goal on Kickstarter, however donations are still encouraged and needed and will go directly to making this production as wonderful as possible.
Underwriting Sponsor of the event is Gramercy Communications, an independently-owned strategic communications agency headquartered in the historic Troy Sentinel building at 225 River Street. A bronze plaque commemorating the site where “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” was first published is affixed to the building’s exterior wall. It credits Moore as the author.
Gramercy Communications previously provided a grant to fund the digitization of the Troy Sentinel’s archives, including the edition featuring the historic poem, and donated the full archives to the Troy Public Library.
“Working in a building that was the former home a newspaper is not only appropriate for our firm, it’s inspiring. That inspiration is why we wanted to forever preserve the Troy Sentinel,” said Tom Nardacci, president and founder of Gramercy Communications. “And I’m excited to see if this year the jury will order us to add an asterisk to that plaque.”
TROY WINS NO MATTER
“I’d really love to see a verdict this year, after last year’s hung jury,” said Crary, 36, who promotes the city’s history and culture as an author and public relations consultant. “But either way, the City of Troy will remain the place that first shared this holiday gift with the world.”
For high resolution publicity images of the attorneys, courthouse, a scan of Troy Sentinel featuring the poem, visit: http://duncancrary.com/St_Nick/images.html
This year’s “Trial Before Christmas” poster features the hand-drawn illustrations of Ben Karis-Nix, of Troy Cloth and Paper. It is available for download at the link above.
Contact: Duncan Crary, 518-274-2723 or DCC@DuncanCrary.com