[This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]
This song by James Pierpont was fist published in 1857 by Oliver
Ditson & Co., with the title "The One Horse Open Sleigh". In 1859
Ditson reissued it with a new cover, and the title "Jingle Bells,
Or the One horse open Sleigh." The book Popular Songs of
Nineteenth-Century America (ed. Richard Jackson, Dover, 1976,
ISBN 0-486-23270-0) reprints this second edition in facsimile.
There is no comma between "Jingle" and "bells" in either the
title or the chorus. The first verse has "Bells on bobtail ring"
(not "bobtails"). The word "fun" appears nowhere in the song:
the first verse has "Oh what sport to ride and sing / A sleighing
song tonight", and the chorus has "Oh! what joy it is to ride /
In a one horse open sleigh." The verse tune and the words of
both the verse and the chorus are nearly identical to those
familiar today. The chorus tune is much less monotone than the
chorus tune familiar today, but would have been too difficult for
children to sing: it must have been corrupted by generations of
schoolchildren into what we have now.
In the same volume are facsimiles of "Jim Crack Corn" (the
words "Jim crack corn I don't care" have no "and", and "don't"
rather than "I" on the downbeat), and "Oh My Darling Clementine"
(said to be originally a serious song; the original does not
include the verse with "And her shoes were number nine").