Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The Reindeer character
debuted in a pamphlet [2.4 million originally distributed] written for
Montgomery Ward department store in 1939 by a 34-year-old copywriter named
Robert L. May.
During the initial creative process, May considered but
rejected using the name "Rollo" and then "Reginald" until settling on
"Rudolph." May and artist Gillian Denver drew inspiration for the reindeer
project by going to the Lincoln Park Zoo and sketching deer. Finally, May
presented the "red-nosed" drawings and storyline to the his employers and
they approved the project which has since gone "down in history" as a
perennial Christmas favorite.
The "Rudolph" character inspired songwriter Johnny Marks [May's
brother-in-law] to pen the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1949).
It was sung by western singer Gene Autry who introduced the song in a
concert in New York City in September of 1949. The song sold 2 million
copies at the time and has sold over 15 million to the present day.
As the story goes, Rudolph was born with a bright red nose which caused
all of his reindeer companions to exclude him from all of their "reindeer
games" But fear not "Then one foggy Christmas Eve" Santa asked Rudolph to
use his bright red nose as a beacon to guide his sleigh through the fog.
Now the "reindeer's loved him" and Rudolph "went down in history."
In January 1947, Montgomery Ward executive Sewell Avery relinquished the
copyright to the Rudolph character to its author Robert May and
subsequently, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was printed in hard back for
commercial purposes, and in 1948 a nine-minute cartoon was shown in
In 1963, an animated puppet special by Rankin/Bass entitled "The Story of
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" aired with great success and since then
has become a popular Yule time video.
TRIVIA NOTE: In the poem "A Visit from St.
Nicholas" (1823) written by Clement Moore, Santa Claus only had eight
reindeers: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Song
by Johnny Marks
You know Dasher and Dancer
And Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall,
The most Famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And, if you ever saw it,
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas,
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then how the reindeer loved him,
as they shouted out with glee:
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history.
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