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Claymont illustrator Darleys gift to Santa Claus: His image


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this is just down the street from where both my wife and mother grew up . . . 

Claymont illustrator Darleys gift to Santa Claus: His image

Delaware Public Media | By admin
Published December 23, 2012 at 11:23 PM EST

Thomas Nast is often mentioned as being one of the first illustrators to sketch the image popularly recognized as Santa Claus. But “Ray” Hester remembers the day he learned the identity of the very first illustrator to draw the Santa Claus we know and love today.

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Claymont experts weigh in on F.O.C. Darley's version of what we now know as the modern depiction of the Christmas folk legend.

Hester says he thinks the revelation occurred several years ago, probably around 1995. As he was waiting to see a Christmastime exhibit at Winterthur, he noticed book illustrations of Christmas scenes on the wall by a 19th-century artist named Felix Darley.

A Winterthur guide happened to have a piece of paper in her pocket that contained information about the illustrations. The drawings were from a version of Clement Moore’s “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” with illustrations by Felix Octavius Carr Darley, once one of the most popular and prolific book illustrators in the country.

The guide told him Darley had drawn the first American Santa Claus. Hester had a one-word reaction: “What?”

This was exciting news to Hester since, at the time, he and his wife Judith were living in Darley’s house on 3701 Philadelphia Pike in Claymont. In 1991 they had been looking for historic houses in which they could operate a bed and breakfast. Darley’s house was boarded up and dilapidated, and the sellers assumed any new owner would tear it down. The Hesters were reluctant to consider the house, but the more they learned about Darley, the more fascinated they became.

Darley was born in Philadelphia in 1822, and settled in Claymont in 1859. The self-taught artist’s sophisticated and vivid illustrations appeared in books by many famous authors, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, and Charles Dickens, who is believed to have visited Darley while on a tour of America.

In 1862, the New York publisher James G. Gregory offered a high-end edition of the Clement Moore poem, “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” with illustrations by Darley. Moore’s poem, first published anonymously in 1823 in a newspaper in Troy, New York, was hugely popular and fixed a verbal description in the public’s mind of what Saint Nicholas looked like.

For centuries, the various depictions of Saint Nicholas and other figures associated with Christmas had reflected the wide variety of European historical and mythic traditions that attached themselves to the holiday. Then came Darley’s version. In a 2007 article for the “National Review” about the holiday season of 1862, James S. Robbins said the season “saw an important cultural milestone, the emergence of the modern image of Santa Claus.” Darley’s Santa was “a plump man with a pipe, furry coat and pointed hat,” Robbins said.

Nast’s first Santa was published early in 1863, and he did many more versions in following years—some of which have become well known. But Darley’s was the first, and that alone makes him a highlight of Claymont’s history, according to Brett Saddler, executive director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation, which, along with Claymont’s historical society and business association, is the steward of the state-owned Darley house.

“To think that one of the most recognizable cultural images in the world today was conceived here in Claymont is astonishing,” Saddler says. “Someday soon, we would like the Darley House to be a destination for those interested in this renowned artist’s work.”

Hester, having rescued Darley’s house from the wrecking ball, would also like to see the artist’s former fame restored to some degree. As a former DuPont engineer, Hester is retired now and living in South Carolina, but he and his wife would love to see Darley’s house preserved and his career better remembered.

“Darley was our life for 20 years,” he says.

This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Source:  https://www.delawarepublic.org/2012-12-23/claymont-illustrator-darleys-gift-to-santa-claus-his-image

 

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Thank you for this share!

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Great post really enjoyed this one, thanks :) 

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