Adults and children alike are familiar with the tale of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” As the lyrics of the song illustrate:
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose / And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.
Popularized by the song written by Johnny Marks and sung by Gene Autry, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer dates back to 1939. A copywriter named Robert L. May created the story of the misfit reindeer in 1939 when working for Montgomery Ward. The retail giant was producing marketing holiday coloring books for children and wanted to come up with a clever character.
Although Rudolph is now beloved, May’s original ideas included Rollo and Reginald. Also, Rudolph’s famed red nose almost didn’t come to be. Because a red nose at the time was viewed as a sign of alcoholism, Montgomery Ward was hesitant to be on board with the bulbous, red snoot. A blue nose was considered, but later changed. In its first year of publication, Montgomery Ward had distributed 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story.
The catchy tune came thereafter, followed by a cartoon short in 1948. In 1964, the stop-motion animated television special further propelled Rudolph to celebrity and became the most recognizable Rudolph adaption.
Today, Rudolph is known across the globe as the reindeer responsible for navigating Santa’s sleigh through tricky weather on Christmas Eve. He continues to be loved by many, young and old.