ultrafacts:Rudolph was born 76 years ago, at the Montgomery…


Rudolph was born 76 years ago, at the Montgomery Ward department store headquarters in Chicago. He was the star of a humble coloring book, written by a copywriter, Robert May, who almost named the protagonist “Reginald.” May, who’d been lonely as a child, based the character on himself. Store executives fretted that shoppers might think Rudolph’s nose was red because he was drunk, but something about Rudolph’s story spoke to people. He was an outcast, down on his luck. When Santa gave him a job (it was the Great Depression, after all)—well, something clicked. That Christmas, the company passed out two and a half million copies of the book.

And so a sales ploy about an oddball redeemed by his big red honking disadvantage became centrally enshrined in American lore. The story became a hardcover children’s book, then a Disney-esque cartoon short created by Max Fleischer (who also turned Popeye and Betty Boop into stars), then a Little Golden Book. Rudolph gained and lost various family members over the years. Once he had a son named Robbie; another time, a brother called Rusty. Later he was given a different brother, the cranky Ralph.


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