James S. Pierpont, an uncle of the famous financer J.P. (James Pierpont) Morgan, wrote it in the 1850s in Medford, Massachusetts as The One-horse Open Sleigh for the choir of the local First Unitarian Church, where his father was pastor. The choir introduced the new song during a Thanksgiving day service; there was not a single reference to Christmas in the original lyrics. Due to the public's enthusiasm, the performance was renewed during that same year's Christmas celebration. In 1857 the song was copyrighted as The One Horse Open Sleigh. Two years later it was first published as Jingle Bells in Savannah, GA, where Pierpont's brother John was pastor. His Unitarian Universalist Church is locally known as 'The Jingle Bells Church'. There's a marker in front to prove it. Author James Pierpont was buried in Savannah (Laurel Grove Cemetery). The Edison Male Quartette's earliest recording is reissued on the VA-cd Voices Of Christmas Past, along with the oldest Hark The Herald Angels Sing by Henry Burr (see there and see also: Mary Had A Little Lamb). Banjoist Will Lyle cut Jingle Bells in 1889 but no copies survived.
Andrews Sisters [with Bing Crosby; millionseller]
Peggy Lee [as I Like A Sleighride]
Beach Boys [guitar in Santa's Beard]
Joni Mitchell [piano part in River]