Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle

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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, Rip Van Winkle is shown amid a group of seven men who appear to be dressed in old Dutch fashion. They are playing nine-pins in a ravine in the woods, as they drink some sort of alcoholic beverage from the kegs. Rip Van Winkle is shown pouring this beverage for the men, who all look at him with grim, melancholy expressions. At this point in the story, Rip Van Winkle has ventured into the woods and found this mysterious and strange group of men. Curious about what they are drinking, he tries it as well and it does not take long before it puts him into a deep sleep, from which he will wake in a much later time.
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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
Sarony & Major
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 8 3/4 in x 11 1/4 in; 22.225 cm x 28.575 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Chronology: 1840-1849
Civic Associations
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
Peters Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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