Everybody knows the jolly Christmas carol Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but did you know that his original name was Rollo? And that he was invented by a department store?
In 1939, Montgomery Ward department store chain in Chicago wanted to hold a promotion by creating Christmas books as giveaways to children. They assigned the job of creating the story to their in-house copywriter Robert L. May.
According to the Chicago Tribune, May wrote “Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but the execs didn’t like that name. They vetoed Reginald too. May’s third name, Rudolph, was accepted and in the 1939 Christmas season, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, written in rhyme, were distributed by Montgomery Ward’s Santa Claus.
The story of the underdog reindeer that finally had his day became so popular that by 1947, 6 million copies of the book were in circulation. In 1949, the “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry recorded the poem as a song and upon its release, sold 2 million copies. As kismet would have it, the song went on to become one of world’s bestselling carols of all time!
This Christmas, when you break into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll know the reindeer’s humble origins. (info from The History of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
Listen to the Original Recording by the Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry