As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

A Christmas Song is Born 2: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

Today we look into how the most famous reindeer of all- Rudolph- was born.

blueprint-robert & rudolph

Creator of Rudolph:
Robert Lewis May
(27 July 1905 – 10 August 1976)
-May grew up in an affluent, secular Jewish home in New Rochelle, New York.
– He had a brother and two sisters. One of the sisters, Margaret, married songwriter Johnny Marks in 1947.
– May graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1926.
– Robert May’s parents were hard hit by the Great Depression (1929) and lost their wealth.
– Sometime in the 1930s, May moved to Chicago and took a job as a low-paid in-house advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward.
Info from wikipedia


Creator of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer


The creation of Rudolph: 

In the 1930’s Robert May was an in-house advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward. In early 1939, May’s boss at Montgomery Ward asked him to write a “cheery” Christmas book for shoppers and suggested that an animal be the star of the book.

Montgomery Ward had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that creating their own book would save money and be a nice good-will gesture.


The booklet published by Montgomery Ward to give to holiday shoppers


Events that influenced the creation of the character of Rudolph:
Info from wikipedia

  • May’s wife, Evelyn, had contracted cancer in 1937 and was quite ill as he started on the book in early 1939.
  • May “drew on memories of his own painfully shy childhood when creating his Rudolph stories.”
  • He decided on making a deer the central character of the book because his then 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, loved the deer in the Chicago zoo.
  • His wife Evelyn died in July, 1939. His boss offered to take him off the book assignment in light of his wife’s death. May refused and completed the poem in August, 1939.


Other accounts reveal that the story of Rudolph was May’s way of responding to his young daughter Barbara’s question about her Mom’s condition:  “Daddy,  why isn’t my mommy just like everybody else’s mommy?” And so May created the story about a young reindeer who isn’t accepted because of his physical difference, yet ultimately helps save Christmas thanks to his shiny nose. Read more on belief net & dartmouth

TRIVIA: Guess the very first name May gave his red-nosed reindeer character?
Answer: ROLLO

The Rudolph Poem Booklet, the free holiday poem booklet given to Montgomery Ward holiday shoppers Info from wikipedia

  • Poem booklet’s first distribution: 1939 holiday season
  • Shoppers loved the poem and 2.4 million copies were distributed
  • War time restrictions on paper use prevented a re-issue until 1946.
  • In 1946, another 3.6 million copies were distributed to Montgomery Ward shoppers

Rudolph, the book published by Maxton Publishers
Image via wiki

Rudolph— from booklet —to spoken word recording —to Christmas song
Info from wikipedia

  • In late 1946 or early 1947, Sewell Avery, Montgomery Ward’s president, gave the copyright rights to the poem to May, free and clear. The spoken-word version of the poem was a big sales success.
  • In 1947, Harry Elbaum, the head of Maxton Publishers, a small New York publishing company, took a chance and put out an updated print edition of the Rudolph (poem) book. Other publishers had passed on the book, believing that the distribution of millions of free copies had ruined the market.  The book was a best seller.
  • In 1948, May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote (words and music) an adaptation of Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy Gene Autry. “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas”.


The original version by Gene Autry: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

Various versions through the years:

Version by Harry Connick, Jr.

Version by Babyface

Check out these features:
– “Writing ‘Rudolph’: The Original Red-Nosed Manuscript” on NPR
– Shining a Light on the Largely Untold Story of the Origins of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer on Interfaith Family
– The Story Behind Rudolph on belief net
– Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Shines on at Dartmouth


So do…believe that everything happens for a reason. Keep Robert Lewis May’s and Rudolph’s  story  close to heart so when life leads you in a different direction, know that happy surprises may lie along your new path.

One comment on “A Christmas Song is Born 2: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

  1. Pingback: Rudolph, the superficially popular reindeer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on December 23, 2014 by in Communicate and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: