James Lord Pierpont

James Lord Pierpont  was a prolific 19th century American poet, songwriter and musician whose major claim to fame is a song that is still sung at Christmas time all over the world.  It is popularly known as Jingle Bells and almost everyone who has sung a Christmas song knows at least the chorus.  Pierpont’s original title for this poem, later turned into a song, was ...

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James Lord Pierpont Poems

James Lord Pierpont Bio

James Lord Pierpont  was a prolific 19th century American poet, songwriter and musician whose major claim to fame is a song that is still sung at Christmas time all over the world.  It is popularly known as Jingle Bells and almost everyone who has sung a Christmas song knows at least the chorus.  Pierpont’s original title for this poem, later turned into a song, was

He was born on the 25th April 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a Unitarian pastor who was also a poet and abolitionist.  He took his middle name from his mother who was called Mary Sheldon Lord and she had six children in total.  The family were able to send James to boarding school and, prophetically, the boy once wrote to his mother describing a sleigh ride through the New Hampshire snow-bound countryside.  He attended this school from 1832-36 but then ran away in order to board a whaling ship called “The Shark”.  Obviously enamoured by the thought of a life at sea he then joined the US Navy, serving up to the age of 21.

Following these adventures Pierpont returned to New England and met and married his wife Millicent who bore him three children.  Unfortunately she died a few years into the marriage but not before he had tried his hand, briefly, at a photography business in California.  Following her death he went to live with his Unitarian minister brother in Savannah, Georgia, joining him in church duties as organist and music director.  He managed to supplement his living giving singing and organ lessons as well.

Pierpont had been writing poetry throughout his life but it took until 1852 before his first major piece saw publication.  It was turned into a song called

and was clearly about his failed business adventure in San Francisco during the Gold Rush period.  It includes the lines:

Further songs followed included

which were sung by an organisation called

The so-called black-face minstrel singing was becoming popular at that time and he wrote

which were sung by an organisation called George Kunkle’s Nightingale Opera Troupe.  The so-called black-face minstrel singing was becoming popular at that time and he wrote Poor Elsie for the Campbell’s Minstrels.  Many of Pierpont’s compositions were of the sentimental variety, and widely sung.  Titles such as

fitted into this category.  A modern-day Bob Dylan song was based on that second title, shortened to

fitted into this category.  A modern-day Bob Dylan song was based on that second title, shortened to Nettie Moore, released in 2006.

One could say though that Pierpont really hit the jackpot in 1857 with the song about dashing through the snow.  In the same year that he married his second wife, Eliza,

was published, and two years later was later given the better known title Jingle Bells.  Here are the opening two verses of this poem, plus the chorus:

The song was only mildly popular at the time but, more than a century later, it is probably the best recognised song associated with Christmas holidays everywhere. It earned him election to the

in 1970.  Pierpont continued writing when the Civil War broke out.  By then he was a company clerk in a unit of the Confederate army and, inevitably, titles coming from that period included stirring ditties such as

James Lord Pierpont died in Florida on the 5th August 1893 at the age of  71.