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Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerRudolph 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 theaters.

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 Blitzen.


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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