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“The story I must tell”: Jingle Bells in the Minstrel Repertoire

Abstract

The narrative works extremely hard to convince through evidence: we have a date, an eyewitness, and the events that inspired the song's conception. Since it is written in bronze and mounted on stone, the story seems fixed and immovable. However, cracks have begun to form in the beloved “Jingle Bells” narrative, and as with many such sentimental stories, we find there is always more to uncover. This essay confronts one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time: “Jingle Bells; or, The One Horse Open Sleigh,” whose history has usually been told in relation to a singular event—“Where was it first written?” The answer depends on where you ask, since both Medford, Massachusetts and Savannah, Georgia lay claim to being the song's city of origin. Commemorative plaques can be found in both cities, and this musical North–South discord carries on to this day.

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Corresponding author
kyna@bu.edu
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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
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