‘We Three Kings of Orient are’ has always been a crowd-pleaser (and a magnet for children who enjoy changing the words). An American carol, it first appeared on p. 12 of John Henry Hopkins‘s Carols, Hymns, and Songs (New York, Church Book Depository, ):
‘Hopkins was rector of Christ’s Church, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, when he published his little collection of Carols, Hymns, and Songs … The collection was successful enough to pass through two more editions, but only this carol has become widely known. It was included in Bramley and Stainer’s Christmas Carols New and Old (1871) and has remained popular in England ever since’ (Keyte, p. 358). ‘Though the book does not mention 1863 or make a copyright claim, and there is no copyright entry in that year, a handwritten note in the copy at U[nion] T[heological] S[eminary] states that the book was published in December, 1863’ (Fuld, p. 628).