Rip Van Winkle


Rip Van Winkle, a short story by celebrated American author Washington Irving, was first published in 1819 without illustrations in “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.” Best known for his popular stories of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Irving achieved acclaim in Europe and the U.S. over the course of his successful writing career. Rip Van Winkle was included in “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent” while Irving was living in Europe. Thus, he was one of the earliest American authors to survive merely on his writing. Irving’s stories have remained an emblem of American culture as they were some of the first short stories that aimed to entertain rather than educate. The two best known Irving stories- Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow have inspired artists to create beautiful illustrations like the one included in this print.

The gothic story Rip Van Winkle tells of an ordinary 19th century man who lives in the Dutch Kaatskills (currently the Catskills of New York). He struggles with his nagging wife, Dame Van Winkle, and in an effort to escape her on an especially bad day, he flees to the woods with his dog and his gun. While in the woods, he meets a stranger who is a representation of the spirits of Hendrick Hudson, and is instructed to serve these spirits a precious drink. Tempted, he tries the drink as well and ultimately becomes so drunk that he falls into a deep sleep. When he wakes, he thinks that it is merely the next morning, but it becomes clear that 20 years have passed. He is now an old widow with Loyalist sentiments that show he is living in the past, prior to the American Revolution. The story ends with Rip Van Winkle living a peaceful life in the home of his daughter, finally free from his wife’s nagging.

In this lithographic print, the aged Rip Van Winkle sits outside the door of the inn just as he used to, except now, he is seen as one of the village patriarchs. Three other men congregate around Rip Van Winkle and discuss the Revolutionary War, which took place during the time of Rip’s disappearance and is hinted at by the American flag that hangs in the background. Also depicted are woman and child, presumably Rip Van Winkle’s daughter, Judith Gardenier, and his grandson who was named after him. This illustration shows the resolution to the story, in that Rip Van Winkle is now an old man, but free of his nagging wife’s punitiveness, so he can finally be lazy.

Sarony, Major, & Knapp was one of the largest lithographic firms at the end of the 19th and the early of the 20th centuries. However, before it achieved this success it started out small in 1843 when Napoleon Sarony and James P. Major joined together to start a business. Later in 1857, Joseph F. Knapp joined the company making it Sarony, Major, & Knapp. At the time that this was printed, Knapp was not a part of the business, so it was just Sarony & Major.

Felix O. C. Darley (1822-1888), the artist behind the twelve best-known illustrations for The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, is considered one of America’s best illustrators. The publisher was the American Art Union, (1839-1857) a subscription organization created to educate the public about American art and artists while providing support for American artists. For $5.00 members would receive admissions to the gallery showing, a yearly report, and an engraving of an original work, as well as any benefits each chapter might provide. Two special editions of the story, each with a set of six of Darley’s illustrations were published; the special edition including this illustration was published in 1850. This print is bound with five others at the back of a rebound book. The cover is of the earlier Rip Van Winkle edition published for the American Art Union but the title page and text are of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Date Made: 1848

Maker: Sarony & MajorDarley, Felix Octavius Carr

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: New York, New York City

Subject: HorsesDepicted: Horseback RidingSubject: CostumeDrinkingChronology: 1840-1849LightingPetsChildrenStory tellingArchitecture, Commercial Buildings


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Art, Peters Prints, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Related Publication: Irving, Washington. Illustrations of Rip Van Winkle

Credit Line: Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.60.2447Catalog Number: 60.2447Accession Number: 228146

Object Name: lithographObject Type: Lithograph

Physical Description: paper (overall material)ink (overall material)Measurements: overall: 8 3/4 in x 11 1/4 in; 22.225 cm x 28.575 cm


Record Id: nmah_324776

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