Wander through holidays past at Winterthur Museum

Local author offers historic books for use in displays
December 21, 2018

The 39th anniversary of the Winterthur Yuletide Tour is in full swing. Some of the museum’s holiday depictions reference the du Pont family, some are historic representations and some are decorative. For many years, Nancy Sakaduski, founder of Cat & Mouse Press, has provided part of her holiday ephemera of historical bibliographic items for display in the Yuletide Tour at Winterthur, a few miles from where she once lived.

Sakaduski is an avid collector of all books, but she has an affinity for anything that illustrates Christmas of times long past. She comes by this honestly, since her father loves Christmas as did his mother. “These items aren’t monetarily valuable. I collect them because I love Christmas; I love old books. I love looking at them and reading the old stories and using them as set decoration in my own home, which is slightly smaller than Winterthur,” Sakaduski said.

Henry Francis du Pont, the only son of Henry Algernon and Pauline du Pont, was born at Winterthur in 1880. H.F. du Pont assumed responsibility for the estate in 1914.  He married Ruth Wales in 1916. In the 1920s, he began collecting antiques and expanded his interest to include designing the garden. During the following two decades, the family lived in an emerging museum, and in 1951, the family opened Winterthur Museum to the public and moved to a smaller home on the grounds.

As visitors enter the Chinese parlor adorned with imported wallpaper and Ruth du Pont’s grand piano, on a settee is “A Christmas Carol,” one of Sakaduski’s books, and greeting cards from the era pepper the mantel. This would have been a room guests would have visited with the family.

In a formal dining room decorated for Christmas, complete with stacks of gifts at each place setting, Sakaduski’s “The Night Before Christmas” is tucked among gifts under the tree.

One of Sakaduski’s contributions is the Washington Irving book “Old Christmas,” which sits on a chair in a room set as a dining room. It was used to interpret historic holiday customs. Curators create a dinner table scene with traditional foods, such as peacock pie, boar, wassail and Christmas pudding.

Another of Sakaduski’s books sits on a chair near a tree where the gifts for the children are stacked in baskets and wrapped in cellophane, a DuPont invention. Nearby a Dickens Reader looks recently abandoned beside a set of toys. 

H.F. du Pont was an avid gardener. Visitors should not miss the massive tree in the conservatory - a nod to his love of flowers. Made of hand-dried flowers collected from the year’s arrangements, Winterthur has been displaying this popular tree since 1985. Also in the garden is the exhibit Follies: Architectural Whimsy in the Garden. 

The Winterthur Yuletide Tour is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until Jan. 6, closed Christmas Day, at 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington. For information go to or call 800-448-3883.

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