Santa Claus from Xenia inspired Norman Rockwell Christmas painting

Edward Caddy
Edward Caddy, a shoemaker from Galway, Ireland is the son of Henry Caddy, sexton of St Nicholas, Galway. He is also the brother of my direct ancestor,  Joseph Caddy. Edward and his family emigrated to the USA, the exact date is not known.  In this story from Matthew Caddy, great great grandson of Edward, we find that he became the model for a Christmas card in the early 1900s. I was very fortunate to have been sent this card one Christmas, several years ago.

Santa Claus Christmas Card

This website shows you the best of Norman Rockwell Art

These are some more illustrations of Norman Rockwell, for the Saturday Evening Post

Santa Claus

Xenia was Santa’s home for 30 years. And in Woodland Cemetery, northwest of downtown, he lies buried with his wife, three daughters and two grandsons. Of course he wasn’t the Santa, but a man whose photograph served as the model for a well-known 1922 Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. The man was Edward Caddy, born about 1815 in Galway, Ireland. The exact date is unknown, for when he and his wife, Anna Harriet Morgan, and their rapidly growing family came to this country, they brought no written genealogy or little that has survived the years. The story, told by one generation to the next, describes Edward Caddy as a tall man for his time, with long white hair, whispery beard, ruddy face and red nose. In a letter written in 1898 to one of his many grandchildren, Nellie, he says: “ I might be misunderstood by strangers with such a red knob on my nose and so much red in my face, but I am determined again to a more temperate appearance, and I hope I shall be able to retain my reputation for sobriety, providence and modesty – I am still Grandpa among the children…” His concern about his intemperate appearance stems from the fact that before coming to this country he studied for the ministry and was a devout Presbyterian. (Were he alive today, he would no doubt delight in the fact that four of his great-great-grandchildren have followed him in that line, although for four completely different churches.) He always wore a long suit coat, with Captain Kangaroo-type pockets, large and deep, filled with apples oranges and candies. These were given to children he met on his long, twice daily walks through the city from his home at the corner of Detroit and High streets. One of his grandchildren remembers: “He had long white hair and a beard…He wore a black coat with tails and high silk hat. During winter months, he wore a black cape which buttoned around the neck and came down to about his knees. Naturally, he attracted attention wherever he went… especially among the small children, who would mistake him for Santa Claus.” While his life was filled with love of children and family, it wasn’t without sorrow. He had a serious accident in which he lost his left arm. The family’s version of how the accident occurred goes: “Grandfather was in charge of the sawmill where the wood was sawed for use on the engines (of steam locomotives). It was while he was employed there that he lost his left arm. It occurred one day at noon while the men who worked the machinery were at lunch. “Grandfather was going through the mill and noticed a belt about to work off a pulley wheel. The machinery was in motion, and he attempted to work the belt back on…by jerking the belt with his hand. His hand became caught in the wheel and, before the men could get the machinery stopped, his whole arm was mangled to the shoulder. “With the aid of two men, he walked home, where the doctor amputated the arm while Grandfather sat in a chair…In two weeks or so, (he) returned to work.” Edward Caddy’s obituary says simply: “Mr Caddy lost an arm while in the employ of the (Pan-Handle) railroad.” After the accident, he was a changed man. As compensation, he received a life-long position with the railroad, a small increase in salary (to $12 a month) and a pension. But those things weren’t enough to settle his nerves. For the rest of his life, he suffered from insomnia. When he did sleep, it was never in a bed, but in a Bentwood chair in a parlor bay window, where he nodded off briefly in the midst of reading. And this habit is what led to a photograph used by Rockwell for his Saturday Evening Post cover. Family members have no record of when the photograph was taken, but a grandson, Fred Caddy (who died 10 years ago) told nieces and nephews: “The Saturday Evening Post had Grandfather’s picture on the front cover…representing Santa Claus as he sat in a chair dozing. I presume the Post photographer caught Grandfather dozing in his chair …How often I have watched him dozing when seated.” But what kind of person was this surrogate Santa? From letters, Edward Caddy appears to have been a man of many facets. In one letter, he sternly warns his beloved granddaughter, Nellie, about the dangers of learning German (that language, to him, was ‘base’). While in another, he waxes poetic and philosophical over the fine art of music. At times, he laments the current state of affairs in religion and politics. And at other times, he comes up with reasons for not being more involved with his church. But through all the existing correspondence flows his enduring love and concern for his family, especially his grandchildren. Most of the letters include references to small sums of money being enclosed, or to fresh eggs and produce being sent out on the next train. Occasionally, he sent flowers from the garden that he kept wherever he lived. His obituary states: “he was fond of flowers and the plot of ground surrounding the little building where he stayed during his working hours (with the railroad), was in summertime a mass of bloom and a bright spot for the travellers along the line, who always looked for the gray-haired man, who so carefully tended the plants.” Although he lived in Xenia from around 1860 to 1890, the flower garden probably was near the train station in Loveland, north of Cincinnati. He worked there for a time before moving the Springfield, where he died in 1902. In his letters he would also inquire about the health of various family members, often sending along his “cure-formula” or strong advice on the use of proper clothing in inclement weather or the need to caulk a drafty window. When an offspring appeared to be headed in the wrong direction, he bellowed out very explicit interpretations as to the source of the errant one’s character defects and the way to solve the problem. But through it all, Edward Caddy appears as a kind and gentle man, dealing as well as he could with the personal and general turmoils life brings to everyone. As a result, he played a large part in the lives of his surviving children and the grandchildren who knew him. However, his influence did not stop there, for many in the family of my generation grew up with stories of his Irish temper, his humor and opinion. But most of all, we grew up with a story of the man who was Santa. Matthew M Caddy of Xenia is the great-great-grandson of Edward Caddy. Dayton Leisure Sun, Dec 23, 1979


About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
This entry was posted in Blog, Caddy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Santa Claus from Xenia inspired Norman Rockwell Christmas painting

  1. Peter Cripps says:

    Gosh, we have some colourful and caring characters in our family.

  2. Pingback: Week 39: Who has been Doodling in the Parish Register? | jenealogyscrapbook

  3. john herbert says:

    Wow, this is amazing. He was a very nice person.
    I love Xmas!!!

  4. raymond says:

    Edward would have been at Home when all the relations used to Gather at Grandmother Caddies Home in Northam for Christmas,The dog ran off with a string of sausages cooling on the oven door with all the Kids after him.we washed the sand off ad ate them anyway.Very funny at the time.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. I'd love to hear your comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s