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New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, April 16, 1922, Image 55

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Paul B. Mnason* Whose Snow-framed Features Smiled at
Thousands of Children. Will Pose No More. Man of Mys?
tery. He Once Led a Religious Sect Called the Angel Dancers
Mnason in a pose reminiscent of his "Lord's Farm" days
HE man who was Santa Claus is dead.
He was a man of many names, but
at the Art Students' League, where he
posed fer beginners, and in the stu?
dios of the best known artists, where he was
sent for when a "Santa Claus type" was need?
ed, he was known as Mnason, the first "n"
being silent
Over in Jersey'City, where Mnason lived.
the children in the neighborhood are still sor?
rowing because "Santa Claus" is gone. They
used to call "Hello, Santa Claus," after him
when they saw him on the street, and they
would say "Now, don't forget to send me that
?HI for Christmas." Or perhaps it was a sled or
le, or whatever else happened to be fore?
most in the mind of the child. And the man
who was Santa Claus would always promise
to send whatever they asked.
"He said that American parents always got
their children whatever the children wanted,"
'aid .Mnason's landlady, a motherly woman in
whose house the Santa Claus model had lived
.for ten years. "Such being the case, he did not
?kesitate to promise the children whatever they
afked for. If he had thought they might be
jiisappointed he never would have made a
fromise, as he was fond of children. Hardly
day passed that he did not come home with
e or two children by the hand."
Huntsman T. Mnason, or Mnason T. Hunts
n, or Madison T. Huntsman, or Paul B.
ason, as he had been known at various
es in his career, probably had his picture
produced more times than any other man.
'?.art circles he was famous as the type that
aeant beard, i joviality. Santa Claus was
?a chief subject in later years, when his
>eard had become snowy. Artists say there
?ever has been another Santa Claus like
?4nas?n. They drew and painted him as
..anta Claus foi ne covers, posters,
??"way advertisen ents, illustrations for sto
" ';' ; Senre paintings. They found
?im the ideai type, on account of his snowy
ward, his beari ?g, the jolly twinkle it, his
Cl?S,hls and his intelligence. Also
J*hands' Orson Lowell, who drew Mnason
,'3;' times ; Santa Claus, says he had the
?as that wenl with the type?hands that
?*essed character.
At the Art Students' League, in West Fifty
*en?h s';- "?? M-.a.-oii miel often posed
* where he was stricken with a fatal at
Ki of heart disease, he found almost con
Jtemploym?ni as a model. Miss Margaret
*|feau' th( ? -v of thc league, showed
7* recen< made of Mnason by stu
f*8' sonu' of them showing him as Santa
J18, One ?howed him as a sea captain
' - some story of the sea to a little boy with
'. a*- ?f" made an excellent sea captai33.
* also posed as King Lear. In fact, he
?"fcdto - | any character that called
a snowy beard, but Santa Claus was his
?!t hc-i, and he knew it and the children
J ' and the artists knew it.
?nason fell dead at the Art Students'
??Tue one week ago last Thursday, almost
*? he answered "All right" to some stu
'?quiry about his health. He had left
Pwe as usual early in the morning. His land
?J y~^ she did not see him go. but a
, a( him and Mnason waved
I'/" " was bis habit to leave the house
rung to "get out of the way,"
P?e put i*.
'.,''"Wed him a room in my house ten years
?' sa?d his landlady, "because I believed
? to be in need. My husband, who was a
Jroar-l man, had met with an accident and
*?been compelled to seek other work. I de
.".'"' ' ..' 'et 0'-;L a ''00331 or two, and that wa-;
"'. Mnason came to us. He helped
*]nd the house at any little work that he
d do. He was a vegetarian. In fact, he
Much pronounced ideas on the subject that,
e be would go to the store for us and get
bread or anything of
that sort, be would not
go to the butcher's and
get 3ueat. Of late, he
had been talking about
going to France to see
a boy he had raised
The boy is now twenty
one years old. I used to
see letters that he sent
to Mr. Mnason in ear?
lier years?-very af?
fectionate letters."
Mnason was seventy
four years old last De?
cember. He was buried
in Scranton, Pa., near
his birthplace, a niece
at Morris Plains, N. J.,
having claimed the
When he was posing
occasionally the model
for Santa Claus would
hint to his artist friends
regarding cei'tain ex
periences in his life in
which his pronounced and individualistic re?
ligious views played a part. It was A delight
to talk on religious subjects. InWact, one
Christmas season when he had been hired by a
New York department store to dress up. as
Santa Claus and receive the messages of the
little folk who flocked to the toy department,
it was said the engagement proved to be short
lived, because Mnason had "talked religion" to
The files of New York newspapers of an
earlier clay contain many articles about Mna?
son, whose activities as head of a religious sect
in New Jersey involved him in difficulties with
his neighbors and even got him into theLcourts.
The Angel Dancers, or the Church of the Liv?
ing God, was what Mnason called his sect.
He put the "n" into his name because in the
Bible (Acts xxi, 16) there is the following ref?
erence :
"There went with us also certain of the dis?
ciples of Caesarea and brought with them one
Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom
we should lodge."
For almost a score of years Mnjwpn, who
called himself "The Holy One," was the center
of bitter controversy. He and a group of his
followers, men and women, lived on what they
called the "Lord's farm" in the Pascack sec?
tion of northern New Jersey. In 1909 he and
his followers were evicted from the farm,
after which Mnason disappeared for several
years, to reappear in New York as an art
"Line's Busy"?a Christmas drawing by Orson Lowell for which Mnason posed.
Reprinted by courtesy of the editor of "Judge"
He was Santa, he was a sea captain, he was King Lear
'M? Mnason first appeared
? in New Jersey as a lay
]m exhorter in the Metho
m dist faith. He told of
? visions which he claim?
ed he had. His ideas
were so radical, par?
ticularly where they
concerned marriage, in
K which institution he
3j? always declared he did
/? not believe, that one
' night he was waylaid
Pin the dark and half his
hair and whiskers were
shaved off. This hap?
pened at Pascack. Fol?
lowing this event,
Mnason went to Jersey
City, but he soon re?
appeared in the Pas
. cack region. He waslo
j&ft cated on the farm of
^jr Garrett Storms, near
J? Woodcliff Lake, who,
?y with his brother Rich?
ard, his sister Mary
and his mother, became
so interested in the
teachings of the ex?
horter that soon Mna?
son was in control of
the farm, which he
made the headquarters
of his cult. Here he
raised vegetables and
took them to market
and sold them. Wayfarers were wel?
come at the "Lord's farm," and hoboes soon
learned the way there and ate many a free
meal, with no greater penalty than hearing
Mnason expound his radical doctrines.
There were protests on the part of neigh?
bors, and Mnason was even tarred and feath?
ered and ducked in ice water. But he was an
apostle of non-resistance even in those days
so far ahead of the great war, and all such
"mere incidents" did not have the desired ef?
fect of making him quit the community.
Bergen County authorities conducted an
investigation of the "Lord's farm" in ISO?,.
There were twenty-eight followers of Mnason
on the farm, nine of them long-haired men,
seventeen women and two children. Biblical
names abounded, some of'them being "John
the Baptist," "Silas the Pure," "Titus" (Gar
rett Storms) "Thecla" (Mrs. Jane Howell I
"Poebe" (Mary Storms) and "The Holy One,"
who was Mnason himself. Indictments fol?
lowed, and all but Mary Storms, who has since
died, were found guilty. Only Mnason and
Mrs. Howell were sentenced. They were sent
to state prison for a year.
After serving his prison sentence, Mnason
returned to the "Lord's farm," which he con?
tinued to run for several years. Occasionally
he broke into the public prints, owing to
some "preachment" or some threatened in?
vestigation. But apparently the hold of
Mnason on his followers was slipping. "Titus"
Classroom of the Art Students' League, where "Santa Claus" worked
as a model and where he died
A War Memorial Dedicated to the Boy Who Needs a Home
JUST such a memorial as soldiers killed
in the war might have themselves chos?
en is being planned for them in New
York City. It is not monument, tri?
umphal arch or statue. It is that which holds
within itself an inspiration greater than all
of these might give to the millions who view
them. By this memorial the memory of a
patriot who gave his life for his country may
mold the characters and lives of American
"That a man's name and influence may not
die with him, but continue as an inspiration
and example to those who follow"
The memorial is to take the form of a large
building, a definite section or unit of which
may be given in memory of some relative or
friend. It if? to be devoted entirely to working
boys from sixteen to nineteen years old, and
as near as it can it is to mean "home" for the
New York City boys whose homes may have
been broken up by death or misfortune or for
the out-of-town boy who comes to New York
to make his business start.
Enshrined in each room is to be the picture
of the man in whose memory it was given.
Inscribed below will be his record in war, or
it may be his achievements in his business or
professional career, for not only soldiers are
to be honored in the building. Thus will be
set before growing boys high ideals which will
seem to them very near and real and worthy
of aspiration.
Such an endowuuent is not, of course, a novel
scheme; hospitals, college buildings and so forth
have been erected under it. But none of them
has filled a more pressing need. And the boys'
building will have such an opportunity as no
other place would for presenting those re?
minders from the lives of great men which can
mean so much to lads.
The building is to be erected by the West
Side Y. M. C. A. by means of its own contri?
bution and the memorial subscriptions. It is
to he half a mile from the property of the West
Side "Y," at Fifty-seventh Street and Eighth
Avenue. Besides the dormitory feature there
will be space for social, educational and ath?
letic uses. The memorial will cost $500,000.
Memorial gifts to endow rooms have been
given in honor of the following: Lieutenant
Marshall Peabody, killed with the "Lost Bat?
talion," given by George M. Bodman; Lieuten?
ant Harold Imbrio, Princeton, '00, died at Kelly
Field, given by Philip Le Boutillier; Edward
C. Moen, Harvard, '91, given by his brother,
A. Rene Moen; William C. Wolverton, giveh
by his son-in-law, Frederick H. Cone, and Lieu?
tenant Quentin Roosevelt, killed in battle.
The boys' division of the West Side "V"
will commemorate these fellow members:
,'ulius Hoffman, who died in France; John
Stark, William Jones and Harold Ash, Tank
Corps, cited for bravery under fire; Harry
Botjer, who picked up an enemy hand grenade
to throw it out of his company's trench and
lost an arm by its explosion; William Moore,
Alexander Robb and John Van Schoohoven,
cited for bravery under fire.
There will be a room in memory of two
leaders of the "Y's" Greenskin camp: Lieu?
tenant Gilbert M. Jerome, killed in aviation,
and Captain John Logei, killed while leading
his company over the top.
To provide a room $1,000 is necessary, while
the other units run up to $25,000.
Storms turned on him. "John the Baptist,*1
whose real name was John McClintock, com?
mitted suicide, and in October, 1901), Mnason
was legally ejected from the farm under the
landlord and tenant act. It was then that
he dropped from sight until, several years
later, with his hair and beard snow white, he .
appeared in New York City as a model, and
specialized as "Santa Claus." Apparently he
had given over all idea of re-establishing a
religious colony. He wrote verse which was
on religious topics, and he lost no opportunity
to set forth his ideas on religion to any one
who might be inclined to listen, but for the ?
most part his time was occupied making the
rounds of the studios, generally at the re?
quest of artists who had Santa Claus pictures
to make and who now are bereft because they
declare that nowhere in New York or its en?
virons is to be found such another model for
the patron saint of Christinas.
"There is no type more difficult to find than
the venerable old man type?particularly the
sort with a sparkle of humor, which Mnason
had," said a well known artist. "It is no
trouble to get old men, of course. There are
plenty of them to be seen on the streets and
in the parks. Not all of them would pose,
even if asked?but there are few we would
want under any circumstances. A model may
have the flowing white beard, the long white
btSsshy locks and the generous girth of an ideal
SantX Claus. He may have, the ruddy glow
of he^ith in his cheeks, but when it comes to
painting such a model, he lacks the something
necessary to make a vital picture.
"Probably it is because few of us reach old
age without bearing evidences of some of the
hard knocks we have received. We may try
to hide it under a brave front. We may have
a ready enough laugh, and perhaps we are
classed as cheerful, but something furtive will .
show in our eyes in spite of ourselves. Or.
there may be lines in the face which we sim?
ply cannot hide. Get those lines under a
studio skylight and they are the first thing
an artist sees. In youth or middle age it may
be possible for a near-type to get by, but
when it comes to old age the model must
stand every test.
"Santa Claus, as most people have him
treasured in the imagination, isn't just a
commonplace old fellow, ready with a grin.
Not: at all. He lives up to the immortal de?
scription in 'The Night Before Christmas.'
The picture of Santa Claus that always sticks
in my mind is one that I got out of a short
story in "St. Nicholas," written by Washing?
ton Gladden, back when I was a boy.
"An artist could almost draw a picture of
that sort of Santa Claus without a model.
I say 'almost' because he'd probably be hunt?
ing around for a model before he finished.
And right there his troubles would begin.
If he'd hunted for a few weeks and then, just
about when he'd given up, he should hear a
knock on the door and there would stand
Mnason, bowing and smiling his Santa Claus
smile, you can imagine just what sort of a
reception the applicant would get.
"It's no exaggeration to say that Mnason
posed for most of the Santa Claus pictures
that have been made in recent years. And
he figured in a good many for which he did
not actually pose?as such pictures have been
copied from originals for which Mnason was
the model. Probably there isn't a man to?
day whose picture has been cut out m ire
times and is treasured in more scrapbooks.
And when you figure magazine covers, ad?
vertisements and pamphlets, as well as illus?
trations for Christmas stories and verse, you
can see that there is no end of demand for a
Santa Claus type. incidentally, this is the
busy season for such a model, as the illus
trators who make Santa Claus covers and
such things generally do their work when
they are thinking about getting the price of
a summer vacation out of their Christmas
It was, generally felt in the studios that'
Mnason was a "man of mystery." Outside
of the few hints he volunteered as to hl-3.
early life, little was known of him. Even
the newspaper history of his career seemed
to be incomplete. Questioning only m??de him '
more reserved. Nothing could darnp*n his
cheerfulness, but behind his smile there was
an element of mystery which the embodi?
ment of Santa Claus maintained to the last,

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