Sleigh bells ring, but do you know the history? A Boston University professor tracing the history of the popular Christmas carol “Jingle Bells” found some surprising information. The song, which many believed was penned in Medford, Massachusetts, has some interesting roots according to professor Kyna Hamill.
In an article published by BU Today Hamill claims the author, James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893), was the son of a New England abolitionist. Pierpont reportedly joined the Confederate army in spite of this father. The song was first performed in blackface at a minstrel show. Hamill also claims the song was not written in Medford because Pierpont was in California at the time.
In her work, Hamill found the song was part of a genre that “lampooned” the black community’s involvement with winter fun, such as riding in a sleigh. She claims original performances mocked black people within the Northern areas. This is according to an article in Boston.com.
Medford still claims to be the birthplace of “Jingle Bells,” and Hamill says like many early 19th century songs the racist origins have been erased.