Listen to the earliest surviving recording of Jingle Bells

By: Dalton Main

Updated:

BOSTON - Jingle Bells, supposedly composed by James Lord Pierpont in Medford in 1857, was likely first performed in Boston. 

But the earliest surviving recording is from the Edison Male Quartette's 1898 rendition of the song, according to the Sound Archive. 

The organization's website says the recording was done through an Edison Cylinder. These cylinders were the earliest commercial form of recordings and were similar to phonograph records. 

The Sound Archive first published the recording as part of a 'Voices of Christmas Past' CD collection released every year around the holidays. But the recordings included on it now live on the website

What is known popularly today as 'Jingle Bells' was originally titled 'One Horse Open Sleigh' after it was composed at a tavern in Medford, according to the Medford Historical Society. 

However, Boston University Professor Kyna Hamill has done extensive research on the subject and says it's not exactly clear where the song was composed. That fact has long been a point of contention between Medford and Charleston, S.C., but according to a report in BU Today, Hamill's research shows the song may have been composed in Boston. 

Nevertheless, Medford has a plaque in the town square commemorating where the song was composed.  

Hamill will be speaking Friday night at the Medford Historical Society about her research into the song. 

Next Up: