"Sleighride Party" and "Jingle Bells"


By Doug Boilesen, 2023

Jingle Bells

"Jingle Bells" was listed as an October 30, 1889 Edison cylinder record performed by Will Lyle playing a banjo in "Wangemann's Log-Book (see Edison Cylinder Records, 1889 - 1912, Allen Koenigsberg, APM Press, 1987, p. 123/114, #1). Theo Wangemann "oversaw the first methodical production of musical recordings for the wax cylinder phonograph at Edison's West Orange, New Jersey laboratory in 1888-89."

Although there are no known copies of that 1889 Edison record, one of the earliest vocal examples of “Jingle Bells” does survive embedded as a chorus on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, “Sleighride Party.” Koenigsberg has suggested that the "Jingle Bells" chorus sung on the Edison "Sleighride Party" record is presumably the same tune as played by the banjo in the 1889 "Jingle Bells" Edison cylinder record.

Listen to Sleighride Party - a Descriptive with a brief "Jingle Bells" sung by the Edison Male Quartet, Edison Domestic series 2218, 2-minute cylinder record, released in 1904. (Courtesy of David Giovannoni and i78s.org). Note: Edison released a brown wax cylinder 2218 "Sleighride Party" in 1898 by the Edison Male Quartette.

Listen to Sleighride Party sung by the Columbia Quartette with sound effects, Columbia brown wax cylinder 9040, ca. 1898. (Courtesy of UCSB Cylinder Archive).

Note: Listening to both records reveals how two different phonograph companies could have released the same song and few would probably have noticed or cared about the striking similarities. Recording artists frequently worked for multiple record companies so that is one explanation. More likely, one company used the existing 'record' made by its competitor and made their own version.


FACTOLA: The Edison cylinder record "Jingle Bells" played by banjoist Will Lyle, October 30,1889, is believed to be the first recording of what is now known in popular culture as a Christmas record. "One horse open Sleigh" by J. Pierpont was published in 1857 as the original title but was soon renamed "Jingle Bells" and appeared as such on the front panel of the sheet music in 1859 (and thereafter).

See Wikipedia's "Jingle Bells" for more details about the history of the song, lyrics, composition, authorship, and recordings.

See “Jingle Bells” History Takes Surprising Turn in BU Today by Joel Brown, December 8, 2016 which challenges where and when "One horse open Sleigh" was actually written.


"The One Horse Open Sleigh" by J. Pierpont. Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston, 1857 (Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins).


Jingle Bells: A Controversial Past

See Martin Chilton's ‘Jingle Bells’: The Christmas Classic With A Controversial Past (UDiscoverMusic.com, Martin Chilton, December 11, 2023) for an interesting backstory to this song which Chilton describes as "Originally penned as a racy romance song about taking an unchaperoned sleigh ride, ‘Jingle Bells’ has become one of the most popular Christmas songs ever."

At the time, “Jingle Bells,” written by James Lord Pierpont, was considered to be a festive standard. But it started out in 1857 as a song called “One Horse Open Sleigh,” a slightly racy romance song about an unchaperoned ride. It was first performed, in blackface, by Johnny Pell at Ordway minstrel hall in Massachusetts. The song’s current title only began to take hold two years later, when Pierpoint changed the name and copyrighted it as “Jingle Bells,” and it was sung at Thanksgiving services. The main line was inspired by the noise of jingle bells on the horses’ harnesses, which were used to try to help avoid collisions in the snow in the mid-19th century. (The song was originally about a crash.) (Ibid. Chilton)


"Jingle Bells or The One Horse Open Sleigh" by J. Pierpont. Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston, 1857 (Source: The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins).


Also on Chilton's page is a link to an animated creation of Frank Sinatra singing "Jingle Bells," his being one of the most popular Christmas recordings ever made. According to Billboard.com's 2023 rankings, Sinatra's "version of the iconic carol is the only one ever to have hit the Hot 100."


Illustrations: Universal Music Group

"Jingle Bells" by Frank Sinatra, released on Columbia Record 37152, November 4, 1946.


"Jingle Bells" by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, Decca 23281 A (10-in. double-faced). Released September 29, 1943 (DAHR)


FACTOLA: Judy Garland got her start in show business when she was only 2 years old, singing “Jingle Bells” on stage at her parent’s theater. She was so thrilled with the applause that she sang the song five times before her Dad carried her off the stage. (Source: Learn the Legends - University of Wisconsin-Madison.)


Jingle Bells" Voco Record, 1948

1948 Santa cardboard figural 78 rpm record by Voco, Inc., "Jingle Bells" on B-side.


Read and Hear "Jingle Bells," a Little Golden Book with 45 RPM "story time."


"Jingle Bells," Sandpiper Chorus Directed by Mitch Miller, FF35A 45 RPM, 1960


Sleighride Films

"Jones' Interrupted Sleighride" was listed in The Phonoscope, November 1898 as one of the "New Films for Screen Machines."



"The First Sleigh-ride" was an Edison moving picture listed in the Maguire & Baucus Supplemental Catalogue, January 20, 1897. "The First Sleigh-ride" was filmed on December 24, 1896, on River Road in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by William Heise for Thomas A. Edison films and described as follows:

"This subject taken just after the recent first fall of snow, shows two enthusiastic horsemen indulging in a "brush" with their respective horses and cutters"-- Maguire & Baucus catalogue.


Screenshot from "The First Sleigh-ride" - Watch Courtesy of Hendricks (Gordon) Collection - Library of Congress


Screenshot from "Sleighing Scene," Thomas A. Edison, Inc., film, 1898 (Library of Congress).

Summary: "A view taken on the West Side Drive in Central Park. Shows a continuous stream of handsome rigs and turnouts passing in both directions. Pedestrians watch the gay carnival. 50 feet" -- Edison films catalog." (Source: LOC)




Thanks to Allen Koenigsberg, David Giovannoni, and Martin Chilton.




Last Updated 3Feb2024